A new name, a new structure, a new knockout tournament and the same trailblazing reputation for expanded horizons will be common themes for Kingstone Press League 1 when Rugby League’s most geographically diverse competition kicks off on the weekend of February 28, 2015.
The 14 League 1 clubs, including newcomers Coventry Bears, will battle it out for two promotion places to the Kingstone Press Championship next summer, as well as competing in a new League Cup competition alongside two teams from the National Conference League.
RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “League 1 has firmly established itself as an exciting competition that pushes the sport’s boundaries, and that will continue in 2015 when all 14 clubs have a key role to play in the new league structure.
“With two promotion places up for grabs and the chance to make history by becoming the first winners of the new League 1 Cup, every minute of every match will matter from the first weekend to the last.”
The League 1 Cup and Challenge Cup action take centre stage throughout March before League 1 itself kicks off over the weekend of April 3-6, when Coventry Bears will start their own exciting new era as a semi-professional club with a home fixture against Oxford.
Last year’s runners up, Oldham, who narrowly missed out on promotion after losing to an extra-time golden point against Hunslet Hawks, start their 2015 campaign with a local derby against Rochdale Hornets.
The 14 League 1 clubs will each play 22 league games: home and away fixtures against nine clubs on a geographical basis and the remaining four clubs either home or away.
The opening weekend also sees newly-relegated Keighley Cougars welcome York City Knights to Cougar Park and Barrow Raiders travel to Gateshead Thunder. London Skolars start with a home fixture against Hemel Stags and both Welsh teams have away fixtures with North Wales Crusaders visiting Swinton Lions and South Wales Scorpions making the trip to University of Gloucestershire All Golds.
The Kingstone Press League 1 clubs enter the Challenge Cup over the weekend of March 7-8, a competition that concludes with the final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 29.
The League 1 Cup, which features all 14 League 1 clubs plus 2014 Conference Challenge Trophy winners West Hull and another National Conference League team who are yet to be confirmed, climaxes with the final at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool on Saturday May 23 as part of the Summer Bash, a weekend where each Championship club will play a fixture at the same ground.
At the end of the regular season, the top two teams will play each other for a place in the Championship with the winners being promoted as champions.
The losing side will then enter the play-offs against teams in third, fourth and fifth places as follows – promotion play-off losers v fifth-placed team, third-placed team v fourth-placed team.
The winners of the play-offs will advance to the League 1 Play-Off Final for the second spot in the Championship for 2016 as part of the Kingstone Press Finals Day (venue tbc) which will also feature the Conference Challenge Trophy Final and Championship Shield Final.
Full details of the new league structure, including an easy-to-understand video, can be found by visiting www.extraordinaryrugby.com