British Rugby League is blessed with some of the oldest, most prestigious and biggest clubs on the planet. As the home of rugby league, plenty of sides have a history laden with success. Meanwhile, many teams have special connections to the soul of the sport as well as the people in their areas boasting superb fan-bases and atmospheres. We’re fortunate to have so many special clubs so let’s rank the 20 biggest in British Rugby League.
We’re going to be using a points-based system for this. 6 points will be awarded for every Championship the club has won, 5 for every Challenge Cup, 3 for every World Club Challenge triumph, 2 for every Super League Leaders’ Shield and a point each for every other major honour secured in the club’s past. Up to 4 points can be awarded per fan-base based on attendances and atmosphere. Meanwhile, half a point will be given out for every season (including 2021) the team has played in the Super League.
20. Workington Town – Championships: 1, Challenge Cups: 1, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 1, Super League Seasons: 1/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 13.5
Workington played in the very first Super League campaign back in 1996 but following their relegation, they haven’t been back since. However, the club does have a Championship winning pedigree having won the title back in 1951 before adding the Challenge Cup a year later. The 50s were most definitely their finest period. That said, they did win the Lancashire Cup in 1978. However, these days the club doesn’t have much of a fan base now playing in League 1.
19. Dewsbury Rams – Championships: 1, Challenge Cups: 2, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 4, Super League Seasons: 0/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 21
Guided by Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson – who would later go onto become one of the most well-known rugby league commentators on the planet – Dewsbury beat West Yorkshire rivals Leeds in the 1973 Championship Final. That was as good as it got for the Rams having already won two Challenge Cups. They then dripped down the leagues but did go the season unbeaten in League 1 back in 2009 and have since been stable in the Championship.
18. Featherstone Rovers – Championships: 1, Challenge Cups: 3, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 2, Super League Seasons: 0/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 24
The 119-year-old club enjoyed most of its success between 1967 and 1983. During that period, the Rovers won three Challenge Cups and one Championship. Their final Challenge Cup success came as they beat current holders and heavy favourites Hull. Despite always pushing for a Super League place, the Rovers have unfortunately never played in Super League but have featured in the Middle 8s back in the old Super 8s format. They were one of the candidates for Toronto’s vacancy but lost that position to Leigh.
17. Batley Bulldogs – Championships: 1, Challenge Cups: 3, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 3, Super League Seasons: 0/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 25
Like Featherstone, the closest Batley have come to Super League were the Middle 8s. The Championship club however have a rich history. They won the very first Challenge Cup back in 1897 at Headingley and would even retain it a year late. In 1901, they added a third and also won the Championship in 1924. No major honours have been won since but Batley remain intertwined with the history of the Challenge Cup and therefore British Rugby League.
16. Leigh Centurions – Championships: 2, Challenge Cups: 2, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 6, Super League Seasons: 3/26, Fan Base: 2/4. Points: 31.5
Super League’s newest club have never lasted longer than a single season in the top flight during the Summer Era. They’ll be hoping that changes in 2021. Leigh have had famous days in their history winning the Championship back in 1982 after only just returning to the top flight. But even more famous than that was their upset victory over Leeds in the 1971 Challenge Cup Final.
15. Castleford Tigers – Championships: 0, Challenge Cups: 4, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 1, Other Honours: 14, Super League Seasons: 24/26, Fan Base: 3/4. Points: 51
Remarkably, Castleford has never won the Championship. The closest they came was back in 2017 when Grand Final defeat dampened a campaign that saw them finish top. The Tigers have won their fair share of trophies however including 4 Challenge Cups and 5 Yorkshire Cups. They’ve only missed two seasons of Super League (2005 and 2007) and have one of the most vocal fan bases in the country with the Jungle often rocking.
14. Oldham – Championships: 4, Challenge Cups: 3, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 16, Super League Seasons: 2/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 57
On the other end of the spectrum to Castleford, Oldham have a much more limited fan base these days. After participating in the first two Super League seasons, the Oldham club haven’t been back since and their status has faded a touch. However, they still have a rich history winning 4 Championships, the last of which came in 1957, and 3 Challenge Cups. They also boast 9 Lancashire Cups winning three in a row from 1957-59.
13. Hull KR – Championships: 5, Challenge Cups: 1, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 13, Super League Seasons: 14/26, Fan Base: 2/4. Points: 57
It took Hull KR until 2007 to make their way into the Super League. They’ve only missed one season since and are certainly a club big enough for the top-flight. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, Rovers were one of the finest teams in the country and arguably should’ve won more. They claimed three Championships in 7 years a period which also saw them claim their one and only Challenge Cup against rivals Hull FC.
12. Swinton Lions – Championships: 6, Challenge Cups: 3, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 10, Super League Seasons: 0/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 62
Swinton have struggled in recent seasons having never played in Super League. They don’t have the fan base nor stature their history warrants. They were the dominant side in the late 20s and early 30s winning the bulk of their Championships in this era. That said, they’d claim a pair of back-to-back titles in the 60s all of which gives them a huge pedigree as one of Britain’s most successful sides. However, their lack of modern success and subsequently diminishing fan base keeps them lower on this list.
11. Halifax – Championships: 4, Challenge Cups: 5, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 13, Super League Seasons: 8/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 67
Halifax were one of the bigger and better sides in the early days of Super League finishing 3rd in 1998 and playing in the first ever play-off series. That built on the back of their impressive history which saw them collect 22 trophies which isn’t a bad amount especially given the 9 times they were crowned either Champions or Cup Winners. Unfortunately, since their relegation in 2003, Fax have gradually seen their crowds drop with an average attendance of 1,761 in 2019.
10. Wakefield Trinity – Championships: 2, Challenge Cups: 5, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 17, Super League Seasons: 23/26, Fan Base: 2/4. Points: 67.5
Many people forget, Wakefield have never been relegated from Super League. The club missed the first three Super League campaigns before joining the top flight in 1999 and haven’t left since. Their best Super League spell was recent and came between 2016-18. But their finest ever period came in the 60s as they claimed back-to-back titles in 1967 and 1968. The 60s also saw them claim three Challenge Cups but also brought about their lowest and most historic moment in defeat in the infamous Watersplash Challenge Cup Final in 1968.
9. Salford Red Devils – Championships: 6, Challenge Cups: 1, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 11, Super League Seasons: 23/26, Fan Base: 1/4. Points: 70.5
Salford have had two of their finest seasons in recent years playing in the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final in back to back years. They have become a fortified Super League club only missing three seasons but for whatever reason lack the fan base they truly deserve averaging an attendance of 3,989 over the last 10 years. However, they have won the title 6 times and the Challenge Cup once.
8. Widnes Vikings – Championships: 3, Challenge Cups: 7, World Club Challenges: 1, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 21, Super League Seasons: 9/24, Fan Base: 2/4. Points: 76.5
In 1989, Widnes were crowned World Champions having beaten Canberra which provided the perfect conclusion to the Lancashire side’s finest spell which saw them claim 3 Championships in 11 years as well as 3 Challenge Cups. Arguably, Widnes would’ve won even more trophies in this period but for Wigan. Sadly, the Vikings haven’t had much of a presence in the Super League being relegated again in 2018 which has subsequently damaged their fan base. The Vikings averaged an attendance of just 4,321 in 2019.
7. Hull FC – Championships: 6, Challenge Cups: 5, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 0, Other Honours: 12, Super League Seasons: 24/26, Fan Base: 4/4. Points: 95
On the other end of the spectrum, Hull have hardly spent any time outside of Super League and have a large and vocal fan base with an average attendance of 11,809 over the last 10 seasons (not including 2020). They’ve also been one of the most successful sides in the Super League without winning the big one. Hull have won three Challenge Cups in the Summer Era including back-to-back triumphs at Wembley from 2016-17. They’ve also won an impressive 6 Championships prior to Super League and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that become 7 in the coming years.
6. Bradford Bulls – Championships: 6, Challenge Cups: 5, World Club Challenges: 3, League Leaders’ Shields: 3, Other Honours: 16, Super League Seasons: 19/26, Fan Base: 3/4. Points: 104.5
A few years ago, Bradford would have made the top four of this list without a doubt. The three-time World Champions were the second team to win the Super League in 1997 and went onto win three Grand Finals from 2001-05. They were also the first club to win the treble in Super League in 2003 and Odsal boasted some of the best atmospheres in the league. However, after a considerable drop off at the end of the 2000s, Bradford entered financial turmoil and haven’t played Super League since 2014. Their fan base has also decreased down to around 4000 according to 2019 figures.
5. Warrington Wolves – Championships: 3, Challenge Cups: 9, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 2, Other Honours: 26, Super League Seasons: 26/26, Fan Base: 3/4. Points: 108
Warrington are another club who could claim to have had a successful spell in Super League without winning a Grand Final. They’ve appeared in four and have also won four Challenge Cups since 2009. A mainstay in the top 5 or 6 clubs in Super League over the last decade it is remarkable that the Wolves haven’t added to their 3 Championships the last of which came in 1955. Despite the lack of titles, the Wolves have won a bunch of silverware and have a superb fan base with an average attendance of 10,451 over the last 10 years.
4. Huddersfield Giants – Championships: 7, Challenge Cups: 6, World Club Challenges: 0, League Leaders’ Shields: 1, Other Honours: 23, Super League Seasons: 23/26, Fan Base: 2/4. Points: 110.5
Unlike Warrington, the Giants don’t exactly have the fan base their history suggests. As the birth place of rugby league, Huddersfield has a special place in the sport’s history and the Giants have had a degree of success having won 7 Championships and 6 Challenge Cups. However, the last time they won either was 1962. That said, the Giants have had a decent stint in Super League just missing three seasons and finishing 1st in 2013. They spent a consistent period in the play-offs and could be set for more success under Ian Watson.
3. Leeds Rhinos – Championships: 11, Challenge Cups: 14, World Club Challenges: 3, League Leaders’ Shields: 3, Other Honours: 37, Super League Seasons: 26/26, Fan Base: 4/4. Points: 204
In many ways Leeds could be considered the biggest club in British Rugby League themselves but that statement is true of all the top three. The Rhinos are very much the 21st Century’s super club winning 8 of their 11 Championships since 2004 and claiming the treble in 2015. Super League’s most successful club has had the best attendance over the last 10 years with an average of 14,487 and have played in every Super League season. On top of that, the Challenge Cup holders are the second most successful side in the Cup and have had historic success such as in the 60s and 70s when Leeds finished top four seasons in a row. With the biggest fan base and one of the biggest trophy collections in Britain, Leeds had to be pushing for top spot.
2. St Helens – Championships: 15, Challenge Cups: 12, World Club Challenges: 2, League Leaders’ Shields: 8, Other Honours: 28, Super League Seasons: 26/26, Fan Base: 3/4. Points: 216
The current Super League Champions just edge the Rhinos to second place. They might have a slightly smaller fan base with an average attendance of 11,290 over the last 10 years, but Saints have won four more Championships than the Rhinos. They took to Super League like a duck to water winning the very first Super League crown and not losing a Grand Final until 2007 having won four already. No club has played in more Super League Grand Finals than the Saints who boast an impressive history and an impressive present.
1. Wigan Warriors – Championships: 22, Challenge Cups: 19, World Club Challenges: 4, League Leaders’ Shields: 5, Other Honours: 59, Super League Seasons: 26/26, Fan Base: 4/4. Points: 325
No club has won more silverware than the Warriors. They dominated in the 80s and 90s winning 8 Challenge Cups in a row cementing themselves as Britain’s most successful club. They also have a large fan base with an average attendance of over 12,000 since 2010. They’ve not achieved quite as much in Super League but have won five Grand Finals including the very first. No English club has won more World Titles than the Warriors who were also one of the very first professional clubs as their success reached its peak with the likes of Ellery Hanley and Martin Offiah catching the eye at Central Park.