What are rugby leagues? Which leagues are most popular and how are they structured? Get ready to learn all about the basics of rugby leagues. No prior knowledge of the sport of rugby is necessary to start learning.
The term 'rugby league' refers to two distinct concepts. The first is the governing body that oversees member teams and matches throughout the course of the season. Each organization has its own set of rules that must be abided by, although most rule books align with the regulations that have been set forth by the International Rugby Federation, which governs all international play.
Rugby leagues also refer to the member organizations themselves. Within each league are several teams that compete against one another during a season, with a penultimate championship match usually awaiting the two teams with the most success as determined by their regular season and playoff win-loss records. Each team is from a different city or geographic region, with its own unique set of jerseys and players enlisted under contract.
The most popular rugby league in the world is called rugby union. The rules that preside over rugby union play are relatively standard, with 15 players per team and 7 additional substitutes for strategic or injury replacement purposes. Matches occur on a timed basis, with two 40-minute minute halves amounting to a full 80-minute game.
The list of member nations in rugby union is extensive, with hundreds of countries claiming full membership and competing in both regional and international competitions overseen by the World Rugby Federation, although many participating nations have their own rugby union subsets that are played on a strictly nationwide basis. There are, however, some nations that have far more teams and players than others. Among the largest and most notable participants are South Africa (over 600,000 registered players and 1,000 teams) and England (nearly 2 million players and 1,800 clubs).
Rugby union has been the most popular rugby league for nearly a decade, as it consistently has more member nations and a greater overall number of players than any other rugby league in the world.
The first step in starting a rugby league is appointing a governing body. Since the governing body is at the top of the organizational chain and makes nearly every important decision with regards to rules and scheduling of matching, it is important for the group to consist of a collection of individuals with extensive rugby experience and knowledge of the game from both an on-field and behind-the-scenes business perspective.
Secondly, member organizations/teams must be recruited. Leagues are generally established with strict requirements for entry, such as a minimum number of players and teams provided by each nation. Once teams have officially registered and expressed both written and verbal consent to the rules and requirements to maintain membership, scheduling of matches can begin.
Once a schedule has been formed, league play begins. Statistics and win-loss records are compiled throughout the calendar year to determine the victor of each league and its subsets at the conclusion of the rugby season.
It is important to note that this formation process applies to virtually any rugby league regardless of level. Therefore, youth, collegiate, semi-pro and professional leagues must take each of the necessary steps in order to become officially recognized leagues and receive adequate funding.
The duration of a rugby season depends entirely on the league itself, with different leagues having a different number of scheduled games that make for either a longer or shorter season. Generally speaking, a rugby league season is much lengthier than that of many popular American sport leagues (i.e. MLB, NFL, NBA). For example, rugby union in England recently announced plans for an 11-month season beginning in September year and ending in July of the following year.
The cost of membership again depends on the rugby league at hand. For USA Rugby (the official governing body for rugby leagues in the United States), teams are required to pay a collective $500 fee for membership and each individual player must pay an additional $100 price tag.
Listed below are some of the top professional rugby leagues throughout the world. Popularity is based upon the number of participating clubs and players.