The Betfred Women’s Super League will expand again in 2022 after the pandemic delayed planned expansion to 12 teams in 2021.
Barrow Raiders and Leigh Miners Rangers, who finished first and second in the Women’s RL Championship in 2021, have been promoted to join the 10 BWSL clubs – meaning the competition will have expanded by 200% since it was launched as a four-team Super League in 2017.
Huddersfield Giants, who won the BWSL Shield on Grand Finals Day at Emerald Headingley in October after the 10-team competition split into two groups of five midway through the season, have earned promotion to a six-team Group 1 in 2022.
They will be joined by the top five from 2021 – Wigan Warriors, Castleford Tigers, York City Knights, Leeds Rhinos and the champions, St Helens.
Barrow and Leigh Miners will be joined in Group 2 by Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Wakefield Trinity and Warrington Wolves.
There will be promotion and relegation between the groups – one up, one down at the end of the 2022 season.
In addition, applications are being invited for a possible expansion of the Betfred Women’s Super League South – which kicked off in 2021 with six teams – and further expansion in the Midlands and North also in the pipeline for 2022. The continued growth reflects the vision of a full national pyramid by 2024, which was the long-term vision outlined in 2016 ahead of the launch of the BWSL.
Thomas Brindle, the BWSL General Manager, said: “The Betfred Women’s Super League, like Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League more generally, continues to be a good-news expansion story for the sport.
“Managing that growth provides challenges, and we have to be prepared to be flexible on occasions – as we were in recognising the issues relating to Covid-19 that contributed to a number of postponements in the 2021 season, leading to the decision to split the BWSL into two groups of five.
“Consultation with the clubs has confirmed a substantial majority in favour of building on that success, by maintaining BWSL as one competition split into two groups.
“We feel that will be the best way of maintaining intensity for leading players, which is especially important in a World Cup year, while also allowing clubs in the second group develop at a more competitive level. The continued ambition of clubs in Group 2 will also be recognised by the introduction of one up, one down promotion and relegation between the Groups for 2023.
“Whilst the make-up of both groups is based on on-field performance there is an obligation that all clubs comply with all the relevant standards which are crucial in ensuring we continue to drive the competition forwards both on and off the pitch.”
The fixture list for the 2022 BWSL, and details of Grand Finals Day, will be published in the coming months – in addition to arrangements for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup for 2022, and with consideration being given to the possibility of a Nines tournament.