TOP BAR - Fixtures

History

The world’s most competitive domestic rugby union competition is now Aviva Premiership Rugby. The top flight league has evolved over time since beginning in 1987 when the Courage Leagues were formed – a league pyramid that had more than 1,000 clubs playing in 108 leagues – each with promotion and relegation. Previous to this, only friendlies were played and a regional cup competition existed.

Courage League (1987 – 1997)

Initially, Bath and Leicester proved to be head and shoulders above anyone else in the Courage League and between them dominated the top of the table, with Wasps the only other side to be crowned champions in the first ten years.

Leicester were England’s first official champions when they beat Waterloo on the last day of the 87-88 season.

The following year regular fixtures were introduced and Bath started their reign of domination, going on to win six titles in eight years as the men from the Rec took the English game by storm. Wasps interrupted their run in 1990 and Leicester won in 1995 – with Wasps claiming their second title in 1997.

By this stage the concept of professionalism was gaining momentum and the changes spread through the sport rapidly, altering the face of rugby from a game to a business.

Allied Dunbar Premiership (1997 – 2000)

 

Allied Dunbar Premiership

Martin Johnson lifts the Allied Dunbar Premiership trophy in 1999.

The Courage League had been very popular but the league really took off when Allied Dunbar took over the title sponsorship of Division One in 1996.

Newcastle was the first of the “professional” clubs as Sir John Hall dug deep into his pockets and made the club, formerly known as Gosforth, into the 1998 champions.

Leicester then flexed their considerable muscle and went on one of the greatest winning streaks ever. From 1999 to 2002 they were almost unstoppable as they claimed four consecutive titles. What was so impressive was their 57 unbeaten home wins that stretched from 30th December 1997 to 30th November 2002 and included 52 successive wins. So great was their superiority that they only lost 14 games out of the 92 games played over the four seasons.

 

Zurich Premiership (2000 – 2005)

By the end of the 1990s the Premiership had become the Zurich Premiership and had developed into the most competitive club competition in the world.

Over the years the format of the league developed and evolved, with the play-offs and a wildcard introduced.

London Wasps played the competition format to perfection, peaking at the right time to be crowned English Champions in 2003, 2004 and 2005 under the expert guidance of Director of Rugby Warren Gatland.

Guinness Premiership (2005 – 2010)

 

Guinness Premiership

Charlie Hodgson and Jason Robinson of Sale Sharks celebrate their 2006 Premiership win.

Guinness took over the title sponsorship from Zurich for the 2005-6 season and were rewarded with a new name on their new trophy as Sale Sharks won their first ever Premiership title.

London Wasps beat Leicester Tigers the following season as the first ever sell-out crowd saw England legends Lawrence Dallaglio and Martin Johnson make their final appearances.

Leicester Tigers then won three straight titles as they defeated Gloucester Rugby, London Irish and Saracens.

Aviva Premiership (2010 – present day)

In June 2010 Aviva took over as the title partner of the tournament. The 2010-11 season was dominated by Leicester Tigers and Saracens and it was those two teams who were top of the table going into the semi-finals. Leicester Tigers were on 78 points whilst Saracens finished narrowly behind on 76.

Unsurprisingly, both reached the final at Twickenham in a repeat of the year before. In a match where 11 penalty kicks were traded, just one try from James Short separated the teams. Time and space was created for Short by Schalk Brits, who stood out on the day. Leicester Tigers had triumphed over Saracens in 2009-10 to win an impressive three titles in a row. This time Saracens won, ending Leicester’s streak.

 

 

The 2011-12 season was the 25th of English domestic rugby and can be remembered as a campaign in which a major change was made to the salary cap, introducing academy credits of £30,000 for the home-grown players in a squad. Saracens only made it to the semi-final after being beaten by Leicester at Welford Road, in a match which was notable for the impressive performance of young fly-half, George Ford. In the other semi-final Harlequins beat Northampton Saints. They continued their impressive season after finishing top of the table.

The thrilling final saw Harlequins beat Leicester. Harlequins scored two tries on top of six penalties from the boot of Nick Evans. This was their first top-flight title.

 

Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw lifts the trophy after beating Leicester Tigers in 2012.

In 2012-13 London Welsh were introduced to the Premiership. Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Saracens and Leicester Tigers were the strongest teams in the regular season. They all made it to the semi-finals again. However, again Saracens faltered and in a shock result were beaten at home to Northampton, who had finished fourth in the table.

The 2013 final was a dramatic affair between Northampton and Leicester and will be remembered for an incident surrounding the Saint’s captain, Dylan Hartley. Hartley was sent off for using foul and abusive language to the referee, Wayne Barnes, and in doing so became the first player ever to be sent off in a Premiership final. Leicester eventually took advantage of the extra man and won 37-17. They ended their run of losses in finals of the last two years and claimed their 10th top flight title.

 

 

In 2013-14 Newcastle Falcons returned to the Premiership just one season after being relegated, whilst London Welsh had to start the year down in the Championship. The four strongest teams over the season were Saracens, Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Once again Saracens topped the table, this time finishing nine points ahead of their closest rivals Northampton. They made it to the final with a convincing 31-17 win over Harlequins in the semi-final at Allianz Park. In the other semi, Northampton beat Leicester by one point with a dramatic late try from Tom Wood.

There was another first in the 2013-14 final. The teams were locked at 14-14 at the end of 80 minutes and took the match into extra time. A late try under the posts from Alex Waller sealed the win for Northampton Saints. Saracens, who had an air of invincibility less than a month before, ended the season without a trophy rather than the domestic and European double they had been hoping for. 

 

Northampton Saints win the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership.

In 2014-15 Northampton were unable to defend their title. Saracens made amends for last season and beat Northampton Saints in the semi-final 29-14. Despite finishing fourth Saracens beat Bath in the final, who have not won the English title since 1995-96. The match finished 28-16 and Saracens took their second Premiership title.

 

 

Exeter Chiefs were particularly successful in the 2015-16 season. They had the top points scorer, Gareth Steenson (258 points) and the top try scorer, Thomas Waldrom (13 tries). They finished second behind Saracens in the table. Exeter beat a vastly improved Wasps side in the semi-final to make it to the first Premiership Final in their history. However, they were beaten by Saracens 28-20 at Twickenham. Saracens had defended their title, something that had not been done since Leicester achieved the same feat in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

 

Maro Itoje of Saracens leads the celebrations after their victory against Exeter Chiefs in the 2016 Aviva Premiership final.

Chronological History of the English League and Premiership

1987-88: Courage League

Courage League began. 12 clubs played each other in just one League fixture per year, with no set date for fixtures: Bath, Bristol, Coventry, Gloucester, Harlequins, Leicester, Moseley, Nottingham, Orrell, Sale, Wasps, Waterloo

Relegation and Promotion: Two clubs up, two down.
Relegated: Coventry and Sale
Promoted: Rosslyn Park and Liverpool St Helens
Champions: Leicester

1988-89: Courage League

12 clubs. Fixed Saturday League fixtures were introduced.

Relegation and Promotion: Two up, two down.
Relegated: Waterloo and Liverpool St Helens
Promoted: Saracens and Bedford
Champions: Bath

1989-90: Courage League

12 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: One down, two up to expand to 13 clubs for the following season.
Relegated: Bedford
Promoted: Northampton and Liverpool St Helens
Champions: Wasps

1990-91: Courage League

13 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: Two up, two down.
Relegated: Moseley and Liverpool St Helens
Promoted: Rugby and London Irish
Champions: Bath

1991-92: Courage League

13 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: Two up, two down.
Relegated: Nottingham and Rosslyn Park
Promoted: London Scottish and West Hartlepool
Champions: Bath

1992-93: Courage League

13 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: Four down, one up to make a 10-team division for 93-94.
Champions: Bath

1993-94: Courage League

10 clubs. Home and away League fixtures were introduced for the first time.

Relegation and Promotion: Two up, two down.
Relegated: London Irish and Newcastle-Gosforth
Promoted: Sale and West Hartlepool
Champions: Bath

1994-95: Courage League

10 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, one down.
Relegated: Northampton
Promoted: Saracens
Champions: Leicester

1995-96: Courage League

10 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: No relegation and Northampton and London Irish came up to form a 12 team League for 96/97.
Promoted: Northampton and London Irish
Champions: Bath

1996-97: Courage League

12 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: Two up, two down, plus introduction of two-legged playoffs between 9th and 10th in Premiership one and 3rd & 4th in Premiership Two.
Relegated: West Hartlepool and Orrell
Promoted: Richmond and Newcastle Falcons
Champions: Wasps

1997-98: Allied Dunbar Premiership

12 clubs. Sin bins introduced 1 November 1997 denoted by a white triangle.

Relegation and Promotion: No automatic Relegation. Top two clubs from Premiership Two were automatically promoted. Playoffs see bottom two in Premiership One take on 3rd and 4th in Premiership Two over two legs, making a 14-team Premiership for 98/99.
Promoted: Bedford, West Hartlepool, and London Scottish
Play-offs: London Irish retain their Premiership One status, Bristol relegated,
Champions: Newcastle Falcons.

1998-99: Allied Dunbar Premiership

14 clubs.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, one down, plus play offs where 13th placed team in Premiership One take on 2nd in Premiership Two over two legs. Premiership reduced to 12 teams for 99/00 when Richmond went bankrupt and London Scottish merged with London Irish.
Relegated: West Hartlepool
Promoted: Bristol
Champions: Leicester Tigers

1999-00: Allied Dunbar Premiership

12 clubs. Sin bin yellow cards introduced. Points increased to 3 for a win after the World Cup in November.

Relegation and Promotion: No automatic relegation, but playoff between top team in Premiership Two and bottom team in Premiership One
Promoted: Rotherham
Relegated: Bedford Blues
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2000-01: Zurich Premiership

Title changed to Zurich Premiership. 12 clubs. Bonus point system introduced. Zurich Championship introduced with end of season quarter-finals, semi-finals and final at Twickenham. Bath beaten by Leicester in the final.

Relegation and Promotion: One up one down
Promoted: Leeds Tykes
Relegated: Rotherham
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2001-02: Zurich Premiership

12 clubs. Zurich Championship end of season quarter-finals, semi-finals with Final at Twickenham. Gloucester beat Bristol Shoguns in Championship final.

Relegation and Promotion: Leeds escape relegation after Rotherham refused promotion due to facilities failing to meet Premiership criteria.
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2002-03: Zurich Premiership

12 clubs. New format for deciding the Zurich Champions introduced. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Wasps beat Gloucester.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, one down
Relegation: Rotherham Titans
Relegation: Bristol Shoguns
Champions: London Wasps

2003-04: Zurich Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which London Wasps defeat Bath.

Relegation and Promotion: One up one down
Relegated: Rotherham Titans
Promoted: Worcester Warriors
Champions: London Wasps

2004-05: Zurich Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which London Wasps defeat Leicester.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: NEC Harlequins
Promotion: Bristol Rugby
Champions: London Wasps

2005-06: Guinness Premiership

12 clubs. New title Sponsor, Guinness®. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Sale Sharks defeat Leicester.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Leeds Tykes
Promotion: NEC Harlequins
Champions: Sale Sharks

2006-07: Guinness Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Leicester Tigers defeat Gloucester Rugby.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Northampton Saints
Promotion: Leeds Carnegie
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2007-08: Guinness Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which London Wasps defeat Leicester Tigers.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Leeds Carnegie
Promotion: Northampton Saints
Champions: London Wasps

2008-09: Guinness Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Leicester Tigers defeat London Irish at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Bristol Rugby
Promotion: Leeds Carnegie
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2009-10: Guinness Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Leicester Tigers defeat Saracens at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Worcester Warriors
Promotion: Exeter Chiefs
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2010-11: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Saracens defeat Leicester Tigers at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Leeds Carnegie
Promotion: Worcester Warriors
Champions: Saracens

2011-12: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Harlequins defeat Leicester Tigers at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Newcastle Falcons
Promotion: London Welsh
Champions: Harlequins

2012-13: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Leicester Tigers defeat Northampton Saints at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: London Welsh
Promotion: Newcastle Falcons
Champions: Leicester Tigers

2013-14: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Northampton Saints defeat Saracens at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: Worcester Warriors
Promotion: London Welsh
Champions: Northampton Saints

2014-15: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Saracens defeat Bath at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: London Welsh
Promotion:  Worcester Warriors
Champions: Saracens

2015-16: Aviva Premiership

12 clubs. Champions are decided at the Premiership Final at Twickenham in which Saracens defeat Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham to become Premiership Champions.

Relegation and Promotion: One up, One down
Relegation: London Irish
Promotion: Bristol Rugby
Champions: Saracens

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