25th November 2018, 17:55 | championship
Bradford Bulls, Widnes Vikings and York City Knights will all mark their return to the Betfred Championship with attractive home fixtures when the competition starts with a feast of Sunday afternoon Rugby League next February.
The Bulls face their old Yorkshire rivals Featherstone Rovers at Odsal as John Kear’s team aim to build on the momentum of earning promotion from League One last season; Widnes host Halifax as they launch their bid to bounce straight back to the Betfred Super League; and York have been given a blockbuster opening fixture following their 2018 League One title triumph with the visit of Toronto Wolfpack to Bootham Crescent.
All seven matches in the first round of the Betfred Championship will be played on the afternoon of Sunday February 3.
The Wolfpack, who fell two points short of promotion to the Betfred Super League last season when they were beaten by London Broncos in the Million Pound Game, will begin their bid to go one better following the appointment of the former Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott by playing up to 12 matches on the road.
That will include three or four “home” matches – against Widnes in Round 3, Batley in Round 7, Sheffield in Round 9 and possibly Swinton in Round 12. The Widnes game will be played as part of a double header with Newcastle Thunder’s opening League One fixture at home to Doncaster at Kingston Park on February 16 – with further details of the other three games to follow.
That will leave nine or 10 fixtures at Lamport Stadium, starting either with the Swinton game, or the visit of Bradford Bulls on Saturday May 4.
York have identified their home game against the Bulls on the weekend of July 20 as the first to be played at the new stadium currently under construction – and have already set an ambitious target of opening up with an 8,000 sell-out.
The Betfred Championship campaign will feature a return to Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road for the fifth Summer Bash on the weekend of May 17-18, full details of which were announced earlier today - https://www.rugby-league.com/article/54027/summer-bash-returns-for-.
The top five teams will qualify for the Play-Offs, which will begin on the weekend of September 14-15 – with the winners of the Championship Play-Off Final on the first weekend of October securing promotion to the 2020 Super League.
In Betfred League 1, the team finishing top of the table after 20 rounds will win automatic promotion to the Championship, with a second promotion place determined by another five-team Play-Off series, for the teams finishing second to sixth – and the bottom two teams in the Championship relegated.
Another feature of the fixture lists for the Betfred Championship and League 1 is confirmation of the details of the 1895 Cup – the new competition offering a second opportunity to play at Wembley Stadium on Challenge Cup Final day, August 24, for the RFL member clubs outside the Super League.
Four League One clubs will earn the right to join the 12 English Championship clubs in the second round of the 1895 Cup in the week starting June 3 – following the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup, which are scheduled for the weekend of June 1-2.
The 1895 Cup quarter finals will be played in the week starting June 26, with the semi finals to be played as a double header on the same weekend as the semi finals of the Challenge Cup – July 27-28.
Toronto and Toulouse will not play in the 1895 Cup.
Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “There’s so much to look forward to in Betfred Championship and League One in 2019.
“We’ve got the international appeal of Toronto and Toulouse, with more big-name players and coaches than ever.
“Bradford Bulls, Widnes Vikings and the York City Knights are three new clubs to the Championship next year who will add so much – and they all have attractive home games in the opening round.
“We are going back to Bloomfield Road for the Summer Bash for a fifth consecutive year, which promises to be another great weekend.
“Betfred League One contains what has become the usual blend of clubs from different parts of the country, with the guarantee that two of them will be promoted to the Championship in 2020.
“And we hope the introduction of the 1895 Cup will provide an extra flavour to the season as we get into the summer, making that dream of playing at Wembley much more realistic for the Championship and League One clubs.”