Summer Rugby League

A brighter future

The season starts in

Welcome to more exciting Rugby League. More spectators. More opportunities. Less cancellations.

There's more than one reason to switch to playing in a community summer league. Check out our Summer Switch Chart opposite to see if your nearest rivals are playing in the summer. If you can't see your team, then speak to your club or visit the ‘Switch Now’ page.

Why summer?

It’s a good question. Sport England evidence shows that winter based team sports are in decline and summer individual sports are on the up. During the 2010-11 winter season over 1,000 games were postponed. So switching to a summer league means less cancellations, better playing conditions, firmer grassier pitches, more spectators, more bar takings and an overall increase in the quality of the game. But don’t just take our word for it. Click on the people below and hear their views on the summer switch.

Switch Now?

Contact us All you need to know about switching

Switching to a summer based competition is easy. If you are interested in switching or have a question simply speak to one of the RFL contacts. For more information, visit our FAQs page.

Who do I contact?


Get access to exclusive content

They say change is as good as a holiday. Well, we want to make your transition to playing in a summer league feel like a summer holiday. That’s why we’ve created The Great Summer Rugby League Handbook. It’s packed with useful tips and tools to help your club make the switch successfully and attract more players and income.

New structure

March 2012 is the dawn of a new and exciting era for Rugby League and the RFL want your club to be part of it. With our new four-tier pyramid structure being introduced for the March to November playing season the standards will rise on and off the pitch. So there’s no better time to watch your team shine.

Talking about time, this will be the first time the structure of Rugby League will be fully joined up from Super League down to regional leagues which will provide loads of opportunities for clubs at all levels.

  1. Tier 1

    1. Super League
  2. Tier 2

    1. Championships
  3. Tier 3

    Tier Three of this brighter structure will be the Conference Leagues and will only include summer based competitions. These Leagues will be called Conference Premier, One and Two, which will be made of teams from the National Conference League and Conference Three, which will comprise of teams from Rugby League Conference National.

    1. Conference Premier
    2. Conference 1
    3. Conference 2
    4. Conference 3
  4. Tier 4

    The Fourth tier, the regional and local leagues, will be predominantly summer based but will also include winter-based competitions that will continue to be administered through the present system.

    Scotland, Wales and Ireland also have their own summer-based competition structures at Tier 4.

    1. London
    2. South West Regional
    3. North East Regional
    4. North West Regional
    5. Cumbria Regional
    6. South East Regional
    7. Midlands Regional
    8. East
    9. Yorkshire Regional


The latest news from the switch team

Hunt looking forward to a new dawn

History will be made this weekend with the kick-off of the first summer-based season for the Hattons Solicitors National Conference League and Chairman Trevor Hunt is looking forward to the new... More

About The Summer Switch

So why are we swapping those chilly nights for these chilled drinks?

Well, when the sun comes out, so do the spectators. And when the sun starts shining, so too do the players. That’s why it goes without saying in these better warmer conditions, the quality of the game not only improves, but there are bigger crowds and also less cancellations.

It’s no wonder after a large number of postponed matches and training sessions during the 09-10 season, clubs asked us to see how many teams were interested in switching the playing season.

That’s why we asked Independent research company Vision Twentyone to carry out an official survey asking players what time of the year they wanted to play the sport.

The results of the online and telephone surveys showed support for a March to November season and we put together a new league structure.

March 2012 will see the start of a new and exciting era for Rugby League and the RFL want your club to be part of this. A new four tier pyramid structure is being introduced for the sport based on a March to November playing season which will raise both on-field and off-field standards across the community game.

For the first time the structure of Rugby League will be fully joined up from Super League down to the regional leagues which will provide many opportunities for clubs at all levels.

Tier three of the new structure will be the Conference Leagues and will consist entirely of summer based competitions. These leagues will be called Conference Premier, One and Two which will be made of teams from the National Conference League and Conference Three which will comprise of teams from the Rugby League Conference National.

The fourth tier, the regional and local leagues, will be predominantly summer based but will also include winter-based competitions that will continue to be administered through the present arrangements.

Vision Twentyone were also asked to run a second consultation on the proposed new structure which was open to everyone in the community game and the results showed widespread support for the new pyramid structure.

These results were analysed by Rugby League’s Community Board which agreed that the proposed structure was the best way for the sport to progress and decided that the RFL should work towards implementing this for March 2012.

Summer Rugby League FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on issues regarding players, referees, ground maintenance and the general structure as well as specific questions at tier 3 and tier 4.


Have any forecasts been made to show an increase in participation if the move takes place?

There is Sport England evidence that shows winter based team sports are in decline and that summer based individual sports are on the increase. During the 2010 - 11 winter season over 1,000 games were postponed which could lead to players being disillusioned with the lack of competitive fixtures.

How can we avoid a 12 month player?

You can’t, players over the age of 18 can play when they want.

Are we going to start afresh and register at the end of January 2012 ready for the March 2012 start?

No, we will be holding the September 1st deadline for the time being.

Can you describe the new dual registration process?

The Community Board agreed at their meeting on the 14th July the following policy on dual registrations.

A player can register for a Primary club in any one competition. Subsequently they may register for a Secondary Club in any other non-conflicting competition.

The definition of a “Primary club” is the club that the player wishes to play for at all times when available for selection.

The definition of a “Secondary club” is a club the player wishes to play for in non-conflicting competitions not playing at the same time or same tier.

Where a player is wishing to play for two different clubs in two different competitions, then they must declare their primary choice and when there is a conflict of playing schedule then his registration will be deemed to be held by the club declared as his primary club.

A player may only play with one club in any competition at any one time, but can play for different clubs in different competitions in compliance with the primary choice selection procedure.

In the summer and winter competitions the registration deadline for registration or transfer of players shall be set for each competition annually and before the start of the season.

For example if a player is registered for a club in the Conference League and also a Student rugby league team.

Once a player has completed a registration form for a club they may play for any team at that club, subject to satisfying any age band restrictions.

We’re worried about losing all scholarship players from local teams to professional clubs

The elite player development structures have been reviewed and tweaked to enable all players to develop and provide a solution for community clubs. The new playing calendar includes scholarship windows as part of the integrated structure which will benefit both community and professional teams.

Is there a maximum temperature which may mean games can’t be played?

This will be looked at as part of the player welfare support. Games take place in Australia at 50c before the start of the NRL season. As we have seen this year, summers in England are generally fairly mild.

Will water breaks be an option during games?

This is something which could be considered where necessary; player welfare is of the upmost importance to us.

Is there a maximum age for players to play?

No. Although there is the option for players to participate in Masters Rugby League once they are over the age of 35.

Will there be guidance on the different kinds of injuries which may occur on different pitches?

There isn’t any evidence to suggest there will be any significantly different injuries than what is currently dealt with. In fact research has indicated that there are less serious injuries suffered by players participating in a ‘summer’ based season.

How will we find the extra officials with academy and championship games on as well?

The RFL recruited over 1,000 new match officials in 2010 and we will continue to recruit and retain more match officials which is a key part of our role as a governing body.

New match officials are always needed and our recruitment campaigns will be ongoing. There has traditionally been an overlap in the playing seasons in early September which has put a strain on the number of match officials available so this is not a new problem.

There are currently enough match officials trained to cover all games.

What would be the financial support for the structure at Tier 3?

Yes there is financial support in the form of funding to support travel over long distances. This takes into account the number of long trips over the season i.e. Hull to Wath Brow, Egremont to York Acorn. There is already support for the NCL with Match Officials paid for and a full time administrator for instance at tier 4.

Will the clubs in Conference Three have to meet the same standards as the other Conference Leagues?

This is without doubt the aim of the exercise. Clearly there is a challenge to absolutely match the standards from the start however the management group will agree an appropriate set of standards that meet the development needs of each section to eventually lead to parity across both sections. Ideally "over time" we would like to see very strong clubs meeting even higher standards in Tier 3.

Where do other teams fit in the regional and local level?

Each Regional Premier Division in the structure is the pinnacle of that region’s Rugby League structure. Each region would have as many divisions as appropriate underneath the Premier. We expect that each region will have its own unique structure below the Premier tailored to its specific needs and each would be administered to specifically suit that region.

If the aim is to bring Southern based clubs up to the same level as Northern but you will keep them separate how will you achieve this? Wouldn’t it be best to have a truly National league at the top of tier 4?

We believe it is important to keep the regional leagues separate at this stage which will allow the development area clubs to catch up with the standards in other areas and develop in a suitable environment.

How will players get selected for the Community Lions going forward?

There are currently no plans to change the selection procedure for the Community Lions. For further information please visit


Who would make the call on whether games should be called off, referees or grounds staff?

The local authorities have a say but it is ultimately the referee’s decision on the day and clear guidance will be provided.

Will Match Officials receive guidance and training on summer pitches?


Ground maintenance issues

Some clubs have issues to deal with such as sharing facilities with Cricket teams and we have committed to help these clubs with their individual problems. We have been working closely with Local Authorities and keeping them briefed to maintain a coordinated approach to moving forward in partnership with them and with the clubs.

What happens if the rugby posts are taken down in summer?

We are now in regular communication with Local Authorities and for questions like this it is a case of opening a dialogue with them and finding a solution which could be as simple as asking them not to take the posts down in the summer. Local Authorities have explained to us that they take the posts down for maintenance which takes a few hours and there is no reason why they couldn’t go straight back up again afterwards.

The Local Authority don’t let us play in summer

Consultation with Local Authorities is ongoing with many very positive with the changes proposed. Again many of the obstacles can be overcome through communicating with the Local Authority and working together.

What happens if we share our facilities with a cricket team?

A solution needs to be explored in a case by case approach; we have found that there is usually a solution to be found in these cases.

Our local council won’t let teams play all the way through the year because they need 6 months for re-seeding

Local Authorities have assured the RFL that the time of year you re-seed is the key; they assured the RFL that it is better to be off the pitches in winter and then let them recover.

In our area 70 per cent of the youth games are on school pitches which might cause a problem

Clearly more negotiation with Local Authorities and schools needs exploring in this area; we do not anticipate any major difficulties but will work to solve any individual problems like these.

What about the revenue over the winter months?

We anticipate clubs will look at the three month window of no activity and employ various tactics to ensure there income streams can be increased by planning Christmas and New Year parties etc. The RFL will help clubs with practical guidance and commercial advice on these matters.

What happens if we move our main teams to summer but retain a winter team - what would happen to the pitches?

Teams would have to manage their pitches accordingly and look for alternatives.

Can the RFL provide assistance to clubs that play at multi sports venues to help accommodate games?

We will continue working with all clubs within the structure to enable them to get games played.

Will council pitches be given to football to use in the winter?

This is a local authority pitch management issue and we are working with the relevant departments of local councils to address these kind of questions.

General structure questions

How will the season structure look? Will there be breaks for holidays and performance windows etc?

The whole structure of the competition has been analysed and planned to work alongside the professional game and there will be breaks for key events and performance windows.

What will happen to scholarship players if our teams move to summer?

We are continuing to work with professional teams and performance departments as to the level of activity and time of year they play to ensure that there is a coordinated structure which benefits all.

Will there be windows for scholarship fixtures?

Yes, it is planned that there will be windows for scholarship fixtures which will benefit community teams.

Will there be a transport bursary for those clubs that don’t need buses or have their own agreements?

The RFL will invest in the new structure, and teams at Tier 3 will receive a transport bursary to cover the larger distances they will travel.

What happens to current winter leagues?

They will all fit within the structure and will carry on as they are.

Where will summer administrators come from?

From the same places they come from now, from the community game and again there will be RFL investment to ensure we have sufficient administrators.

Will winter leagues still be offered the same level of support?

It is for the RFL to determine based on the level of activity. The level of support for leagues will be consistent with each Tier.

What will it mean for our club’s finances?

Evidence indicates that clubs will make more money playing in the summer as they attract more spectators meaning bar takings go up. There are also more opportunities for organising events around games with the better conditions which will again increase revenue. The RFL have commissioned a full report into the effect on clubs finances which will be published soon.

Will minimum entry criteria work across all divisions?

Minimum entry criteria currently exist for leagues, as per the partnership agreement and Clubmark & Clubmark Gold. The minimum entry criteria for Tier 3 will be the current NCL entry standards.

Will Annual Entry Criteria be on a four year cycle at the bottom level?

Annual entry criteria means what a club needs to do to play at a certain level, at some levels it could be for example just a pitch and a team of players. Annual Entry Criteria is run on a four level cycle at the moment as far as Clubmark is concerned and this may continue.

How far up can teams go?

Each individual team and club will have an annual entry criteria and it would be up to them to improve and the new pyramid will provide numerous opportunities for clubs to progress.

Who picks the number of teams for each division?

It is the stated aim that we work towards 12 teams or less in each division. Partly we may rely on the geographical element.

How long will it take a team at the bottom of the structure to reach the top?

It depends on the ambition of the club and team.

What level can clubs ‘jump in’ at?

They will be assessed as the standards they have been playing in and placed accordingly. At the lower end annual entry criteria may enable them to move up quickly.

Do Super League teams want people playing in winter so it doesn’t affect their season?

The Super League clubs have been consulted, and their support for the new structure is very positive. The Championship clubs are also behind the new structure.

Would it be ideal to have a review of the structure after 5 years to resolve this?

That may be the case; we will be reviewing the structure every 3 years at present.

Will teams play the full season of March – November?

No, it is anticipated that games will be played within the months of March to November, not necessarily every week, modified games and junior leagues may have a holiday break around the school summer holiday period.

Flexibility will be key to the new structure and with fewer games postponed there will be more scope for windows to be built in as appropriate for each individual league or region. Also some of the regional leagues may start after March and may not play all the way until November.

Have thoughts have been given to the administration of the competition?

The RFL has already confirmed it will invest in the administration and there will be a great deal of planning to ensure each tier of the competition has the appropriate administration structure.

Who decides if clubs can move up at tiers 3 and 4?

Individual management groups for the leagues concerned would make these kind of decisions.

If teams are competitive playing level wise but not got other criteria, how can they move up?

That would be up to the management to decide at each level.

Has the structure been discussed with BARLA?

Yes, they are our partners in this.

How does the funding work?

There will not be a pot of cash for this structure as a hand out to all clubs, however there will be investment in the structure.

Where does winter rugby sit within the new structure?

Winter Rugby is included in the competition structure at tier 4, winter competitions will be administered and organised as they are presently.

What will happen to existing League administrators? Will they continue to look after the Leagues?

Existing volunteers will be embraced within this structure.

Is there anything to stop other people setting up winter leagues?

No, but they must be within the RFL competition structure and be properly insured and recognised by the partners on the Community Board.

Will there be a summer break for the junior leagues?

This is a possibility which will be looked at. Playing between March and November allows a large degree of flexibility for breaks in competition.

Our second team might not want to travel as far as the prefer playing locally

It will be ensured that there is adequate provision for all participants to play when and where they feel they are best placed to.

Where do Championship second teams fit in?

They are not affected and fit in tier 2.

Tier 3

Where are the teams coming from?

For the 2012 season at Tier 3 of the National Competition structure, the Conference League will consist of teams from the NCL Premier, One and Two Divisions and will be organised by the NCL under the current rules and regulations applied by the NCL.

A new Conference League division three comprising teams from the current RLC National will be formed and this will be run under the current operational arrangements for the RLC National. There will be no demotion from the current NCL Division Two into Conference Division Three or promotion from Division Three into Two at the end of the season.

Any new applications to Tier 3 will be considered under the present entry requirements and standards for the NCL and RLC National. The NCL will vet new applications for the Premier, One and Two Divisions and the RFL vetting applications for division three.

How will tier Three in the structure be managed and by who?

The NCL management will manage Conference Premier, Division 1 and Two and the RFL will organise Conference Three.

What will be the standards for tier 3?

The standards will be the same as they are now for the NCL, based on the existing standards but not diluting what the NCL does, there will an opportunity to review this and move forward.

Tier 4

Reserve grade teams, where would they play, who would they play?

It may be that the regional league would be playing a similar structure as they do now; if not the tier 3 Management group could construct a suitable competition.

Would insurance be affected if a club can re-register a team on block without getting the necessary signatures from each player?

No, the insurance would not be affected. The Community Board agreed at their meeting on the 14th July that open age players now remain on the club register until such time as the club deregisters the player no longer involved. Insurance will therefore be in place for the club.

Would players be able to register on the day?

Yes. Clubs may register new players on the actual match day provided that the registration form is initialled by the appointed match official. The registration form must be sent to the Competition Administrator with the team sheet and match report.

Could we scrap the registration deadlines, but have a transfer deadline instead?

This would allow new players to register throughout the entire season, but would restrict registered players moving after a certain date.

There is no registration deadline however there is a transfer deadline of the 31st August.

Would there be a limit on the number of first team players that could play for a second team e.g. the 6 / 4 rule (maximum of 4 players who have played 6 or more games for the first team eligible for 2nd team at any one time)?

No, players will be allowed to play for any team they are eligible for age wise, once they are registered. There will be cup tie rules around players who will not be allowed to play for two teams in the same competition, these rules will be covered in the Competition rules.

What are the representative opportunities for players at Tier 4?

Tier 4 players will have the opportunity to play for the Community Lions. The Community Board International Group will be reviewing the representative structure over the next twelve months.

What fees would the clubs need to pay?

The clubs will be paying the same membership fees as they pay now.

What will be the payment for Match Officials?

Match Officials will be paid at a central rate.