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Five cities Super League’s next expansion team could emerge from

Super League expansion clubs?

Over the years we have seen a number of expansion teams enter the professional ranks. Many have competed in Super League, with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Celtic Crusaders and Toronto Wolfpack underlining the game’s ambitions to try to grow the sport beyond the M62 corridor and into other countries.

Unfortunately, the majority of these expansion teams have quickly come and gone, with financial problems and the lack of long-term sustainability often proving the biggest issues. It now sees Super League have just two teams competing within it from outside the rugby league heartlands.

One of those teams is the London Broncos, a club with a long history in the sport. The other is the game’s only successful long-term expansion project at the highest level: Catalans Dragons.

The Dragons are now one of the heavyweight teams of Super League, with exemption from relegation in their first two seasons allowing them to build a highly successful top-flight rugby league team in Perpignan.

Catalans’ Challenge Cup triumph in 2018 underlined that expansion projects can work if done in the right way, with many factors needed for it to be successful. Location, finances and timing are probably the main three things that are needed to work, with the game now going in a different direction under IMG.

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It appears that IMG’s model in the short-term is to improve the facilities and quality of the game off the pitch for the game’s current clubs, bringing them all up to Grade A level. Beyond that, there surely will be the aim of increasing the popularity of Super League beyond the traditional areas.

With that in mind and given the events of recent days, with the RFL in search of a new club for the 2025 season, we have compiled a list of five areas in which we think the game’s next expansion club could emerge.

Five areas for Super League’s next expansion team


Credit: Mediapac Sports

The inspiration for this article comes after Bedford Tigers applied to be in League One next season. As the sport tries to get back on track under the IMG model, the RFL are currently open to applications for a 36th franchise in the game’s professional ranks. It is part of the plan to have three tiers of 12 teams from the start of the 2025 season.

Bedford’s statement upon revealing they have applied for League One status next season is an impressive one, with the club making moves both on and off the pitch. Recognising the struggles with recent expansion teams, the Tigers have made it clear their plans to take advantage of the strong rugby union talent pool in the area and work alongside Bedford Blues.

Should Bedford be accepted into League One, they have great potential. Geographically, Bedford is located in a prime spot with strong transport links to the Midlands and London. It’s a town with a 185,000 population but has an almost uncontested fan base that spreads much further.

If rugby league starts to gain traction in the area, it could become a strong contender for an expansion spot in Super League should the game go down that route. Bedford Blues are in the second tier of the RFU system, leaving this town without a top-flight sports team. Should Bedford Tigers gain that status, fans may flock to see them in action.


Credit: Imago Images

Having joined the RFL system in 2022, Cornwall have been making progress under former Toronto Wolfpack owner Eric Perez. Despite struggling for results on the pitch, though there has been improvement, there is great potential off the pitch with Perez revealing last year the club could move to a brand-new stadium being built in Truro.

Currently plating out of Penryn’s Memorial Ground, Cornwall averages a home attendance of over 1,000 per game and are a club with great reach in an untapped part of the country when it comes to professional sport. Cornwall has a population of over 500,000, so having already attracted over 1,000 people consistently in League One, who knows what they could achieve in a higher division with more financial backing?


Cumbria has longed for a team in Super League

Derwent Park. Credit: Imago Images

Talked about for a long time, we haven’t seen a Super League club in Cumbria since Workington competed in the inaugural season in 1996. It almost seems a waste that this great area does not have a top-flight club when you consider it is a hotbed for rugby league. We have and continue to see great names of the sport come from this wonderful area of the country, and there is still calls from many for the teams in Cumbria to come together and form one Super League club.

This will of course create a huge backlash from the fans of Workington, Whitehaven and Barrow, three fantastic rugby league clubs with a superb history. The feeling from many is that if they came together they could form a powerhouse Super League club with a huge fanbase in a county with a population of 500,000 people.

Adding further weight to this argument is the fact that a team of Cumbrian players came together prior to the last World Cup, beating Jamaica in a warm-up game 28-12. This game attracted an impressive attendance of 3,000 fans at Derwent Park, rasing the question as to whether something like this actually could work despite the rivalries of the local teams. Whether a combined Cumbria Super League club ever happens remains to be seen, but while it remains untried there will continue to be calls for this to happen.


Red Star Belgrade in the 2019 Challenge Cup. Credit: Imago Images

Serbian Super League champions Red Star Belgrade had applied to be in League One in 2021 but, unfortunately, the pandemic hit and threw their plans off track. This came after competing in the 2019 Challenge Cup, putting in an impressive first-round display against Millom.

Online data shows that Serbia is the strongest European rugby league nation outside the UK and France for participation. The Red Star club has superb branding, backed by fellow professional sports teams in Belgrade, with their academy and women’s team adding further strength to an impressive setup.

Red Star has dominated the Serbian league since its formation and is a club with the potential to follow in the same footsteps as Catalans Dragons. Playing out of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, a city with a population of 1.4 million, there is huge potential. When it comes to expansion clubs, history suggests Super League is not afraid to try extravagant things, and this would fall under that umbrella.

It would however be a calculated risk, with Red Star already having strong foundations and huge potential of creating homegrown players. If they opted for Belgrade, the IMG model would be perfect with exemptions from relegation allowing the club to grow and develop in a similar nature to Catalans.


Amsterdam Cobras for Super League?

Amsterdam Cobras celebrate becoming 2023 Dutch Rugby League Champions.

January 2025 will see Hull KR head to Amsterdam to take on York Knights in a historic pre-season game at NRCA Stadium looking for a sell-ou as the game continues to grow in the Netherlands. NRCA Stadium is the home of Rugby in The Netherlands and fans of both clubs are expected to travel in numbers with an official link up with Catalans Sports Tours.

This may give those playing and attending a taste of rugby league in Amsterdam, with both clubs to go into the local community to push the sport and try to sell tickets for the occasion. This could be the start of something special in Amsterdam, with the world-famous city already home of the Dutch champion the Amsterdam Cobras.

The Netherlands are aiming to participate in upcoming World Cups and the ever-growing audience there, and in Amsterdam in particular, gives those in charge of our sport another area with huge potential for growth. Similar to away days in Catalans, Amsterdam would attract huge away number from Super League clubs and combined with those locally, there may be a chance for something special to happen in the Dutch capital.

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