Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League today celebrates another significant step forward with confirmation of the launch of the Betfred Women’s Super League South.
Five new Women’s teams – Bedford Tigers, Cardiff, Cornish Rebels, Golden Ferns and London Broncos – will join the British Army in a six-team competition for 2021, to run alongside the existing Betfred Women’s Super League, Championship and League 1 competitions in the North, with fixtures due to begin on the first weekend of June.
In another boost for the women’s game, Betfred have extended their title sponsorship of the Women’s Super League, which began in 2019, to include the new competition.
With a number other expressions of interest already received, the intention is that the Betfred Women’s Super League South will sit at the top of a pyramid for the Women’s and Girls’ game in the south of England and Wales, as the Betfred Women’s Super League does in the North.
Marc Lovering, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Development, said: “A new Premier competition for Women’s Rugby League in the South of England and Wales has always been part of our medium to long term strategy as we look to build on the growth within the Women’s and Girls’ game since the launch of the WSL in 2017.
"We had intended to launch in 2020 but were forced to delay for obvious reasons. But that has the benefit of launching in a year which will end with England Women playing in a home World Cup - and to have title sponsors for this new competition in Betfred, such generous supporters of Rugby League in general and the Women’s Super League in particular, is another great boost.
"We are excited by the six teams who will compete in the Betfred Women’s Super League South this summer, and the new playing talent they could bring into the sport.
"The introduction of the Women’s Super League in 2017 has been instrumental in providing an aspirational playing opportunity, raising the profile of the women’s game and providing girls with development opportunities.
"We will be looking for the same impact through this new competition and the teams taking part will also have a focus on girls’ development ensuring sustainable pathways start to emerge.
"We will also see other activity taking place across the South this summer with more new teams playing Women’s Rugby League for the first time.
"We are confident that with the number of new teams getting involved we will quickly be able to establish a full pyramid beneath the Betfred Women’s Super League South.
"With plans for a similar new competition in the North launching in 2022 we are aiming to have a full national competition structure in place ahead of the 2024 season."
For the inaugural season of the Betfred Women’s Super League South the six teams will be split into regional conferences, as follows:
- Golden Ferns - the Women’s section of The All Golds Rugby League Club based at the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College with its superb facilities.
- Cardiff - overseen by Wales Rugby League and based at the University of South Wales the side will be coached by Ian Newbury, the Wales’s Women’s Assistant Coach, and will feature many of the players expected to feature in the England v Wales international later this year.
- Cornish Rebels - the South West’s most decorated club with a thriving development section, the Rebels are based at Redruth and intend to play at the long awaited Stadium for Cornwall due in 2023.
- London Broncos - the most successful professional club in the South with aspirations to compete at the elite level of the women’s game as they have done for many years in the men’s game.
- Bedford Tigers - A strong track record in development work in the Bedfordshire area, access to existing talent pools, good facilities and ambitious future mean the Tigers will be a valuable addition to the competition.
- British Army - Already well established in Women’s Rugby League with a strong pedigree and track record. A number of Army players have already made the move to existing Super League sides giving an indication of the quality that exists within our Armed Forces.
Any other teams interesting in taking part in Women’s Rugby league in the South of England should contact Southern Regional Manager Stephen.Guan@rfl.uk.com for help and guidance.
Jason Loubser, London Broncos:
"London Broncos are extremely excited to be part of this new competition. We feel that Women's Rugby League will have a strong presence in London and it was an easy decision when we were invited to apply for a place in the competition. Our plan has always been to form strong community links in the local area and forming a Women’s team is another step towards strengthening these links in addition to our Academy programme and the award-winning schools and community delivery."
Gareth Kear, Wales Rugby League
"Cardiff will be solely run by Wales Rugby League. It will create an additional level of performance games between our community and international games to help develop our elite players. Strategically our BWSLS franchise will adopt all the same, tactical and technical standards as our national team. The head coach for the franchise will be Ian Newbury, who is assistant coach for our women’s national team, and he will be supported by the WRL medical and sports science national staff. The vision is for the new team to play out of Cardiff Arms Park and train at the University of South Wales. Our mission is to have a semi-professional Women’s SL team in Cardiff in the next three years. All players will be dual registered with their community clubs and still play in the WRL club competition."
Lionel Hurst, All Golds Rugby
"We are naturally delighted to be selected as inaugural and historic participants by the Rugby Football League. The Golden Ferns will be based at the outstanding SGS Stoke Gifford Stadium in Bristol where the facilities are of the highest order. There are many fine female athletes in the region from all disciplines and they now have the opportunity to play our magnificent sport. The vision and support of the governing body merit great praise."
John Beach, Chairman, Cornish Rebels RL
"Women’s sport has been on the rise for some time, and we've seen that in the number of girls who have taken part in our schools events over the last few years. It is essential that our club provides an equal pathway for both men and women, boys and girls to reach the very top of Rugby League and the establishment of our Women's team is the first footprint of that journey. I along with the rest of the Rebels board attended the spectacular Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final in 2019 and at that moment we said we definitey need to be involved. Throughout the pandemic we have worked incredibly hard on many aspects of the wider club and we are extremely excited to make history and become a founder member of the South of England's premier women's competition.
"Cornwall has a rich history of producing female athletes who have achieved honours at the highest level and we can't wait to add some female Rugby League players to that prestigious list."