Engage Super League is the top-level professional Rugby League club competition in the UK and Europe, featuring fourteen teams: twelve from England, one from Wales and one from France, with the competition running from February to October.
Super League began in March 1996 and saw the English season switch from winter to summer for the first time in over 100 years. Most of the teams are based in Northern England although there has been a European flavour to the competition since it kicked off as French club Paris Saint Germain hosted Sheffield Eagles in the first ever Super League match.
PSG left the competition after the 1997 season but the French contingent was restored in 2006 when Perpignan-based Catalans Dragons were admitted into Super League. In 2009 they were joined by the first ever Welsh Club to take part, Celtic Crusaders, who left their home of Bridgend after just one year to move to the Capital of North Wales, Wrexham.
During the league's regular season, each team plays 27 rounds between February and September. These consist of 13 home games, 13 away games and a Magic Weekend game at a neutral venue. At the end of the regular season the top eight teams in the League play in the play-offs, which culminates with the Grand Final to determine the Champions.
In 2009, for the first time in its history, Super League games were played in five different countries in a single season: England, Wales, Scotland, France and Spain.
St Helens, Leeds and Bradford have been the three dominant teams in the Super League since its arrival in 1996, although the Warriors picked up the trophy in the inaugural Grand Final in 1998 and returned to form under Michael Maguire, lifting the trophy at a sold out Old Trafford in 2010.
Each year the competition winners play a game against the premiers of the Australasian National Rugby League competition in the World Club Challenge. The competition began unofficially in 1987 when Wigan defeated Manly 8-2 in front of 38,000 fans at Central Park. The first official World Club Challenge was contested between Widnes and Canberra in 1989 and three further matches, each involving Wigan, were staged in the early 1990s when Wigan lifted the trophy twice against Penrith and Brisbane.
With the outbreak of the Australian Super League War in 1995, the World Club Challenge was not staged again until 1997. In that year the competition was restructured to include 22 clubs from the Australian and European Super League competitions. As it was contested over 6 rounds in 2 hemispheres, with $1,000,000 prize money, the competition was prohibitively expensive to stage, and it reportedly lost over $5,000,000. This, coupled with the poor TV ratings and attendances that were achieved both in Australia and Europe, led to the competition being postponed for a number of years.
When it was resurrected in 2000, the World Club Challenge was again played between the Super League and NRL Champions with Bradford, St Helens and Leeds all lifting the trophy for the UK. Wigan will have the chance to continue their romance with the trophy when they face St George Illawara Dragons in 2011.