TOP BAR - Fixtures

History

It all started back in the 1997-98 season as the country’s best sides competed for the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

The League has come a long way in the subsequent two decades as we find out in our trawl through the archives, kicking things off with Newcastle Falcons being named Champions in 1998.

In that season the Falcons side boasted such players as Tony Underwood, Inga Tuigamala, Rob Andrew, Doddie Weir, Pat Lam and a fresh-faced young man called Jonny Wilkinson playing at outside centre no less.

That title was to be the Falcons’ first and only to date as Leicester Tigers quickly dominated this era of Premiership Rugby.

The Tigers set an impressive benchmark for English club rugby as they racked up eight Premiership Rugby titles, kicking things off with four in a row from 1999 to 2002. The last of those two domestic successes also saw the Leicester club win back-to-back European crowns as they became the team to beat.

And the team to halt their dominance were London Wasps who went on to claim three successive Premiership Rugby titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005, with the middle of those triumphs also seeing them become Champions of Europe.

Wasps would add a fourth crown to their collection in 2008, having seen Sale Sharks become Champions in 2006 and Leicester Tigers triumph in 2007, before the Tigers won back-to-back titles at the end of the decade.

In 2011 Saracens won their first Premiership Rugby Final, with a then 19-year-old Owen Farrell giving a glimpse of his talent as he kicked 17 points in a 22-18 victory over Leicester Tigers.

And this triumph kickstarted a period that saw five different teams lift the Premiership Rugby trophy in seven years.

Harlequins followed Saracens’ lead by lifting their maiden Premiership Rugby title in 2012 courtesy of a 30-23 Twickenham Stadium victory over Leicester Tigers.

And while the Tigers would get their paws back on the trophy with a 2013 showpiece victory over Northampton Saints, the latter would not be disappointed for too long as 12 months later they beat Saracens 24-20 in the first Premiership Rugby Final to go to extra time.

That showpiece was also the first in ten years to not feature Leicester Tigers, and the Welford Road outfit have been waiting for a May return to Twickenham Stadium ever since.

Saracens, the team undone by Saints after extra-time, would gain their own revenge as they beat Bath and Exeter Chiefs in the 2015 and 2016 Finals respectively, also claiming their maiden European title in the latter year.

And while Saracens would continue to be a powerhouse in Europe as they defended their title, they would not be able to secure a third-straight Premiership Rugby crown as Exeter Chiefs beat Wasps 23-20 after extra time back in May.

The Chiefs’ success marked a remarkable journey for the Devon side who only earned promotion to Premiership Rugby for the 2010-11 campaign.

Fly-half Gareth Steenson was the Exeter hero as he kicked a penalty in extra time, but head coach Rob Baxter admitted he felt for Wasps having gone through the same disappointment of losing a Premiership Rugby Final just 12 months previously.

“It feels like a huge reward for masses of hard work,” he said after the final whistle. “I look at a group of players, not just now but all the guys who have played for us over a number of years, who have worked very hard.

“We’ve come up against a lot of stops and lost a lot of games; I’ve played in games here for Exeter and coached a few and not won. It feels special for a lot of people to come through the tough times.

“I do feel for Wasps a bit, because we were there last year when we fought back to within three points. You start to dream and the dreams were shattered and thrown away from you.”

However, Exeter could not defend their crown in 2018 as Saracens got the better of the Chiefs 27-10 to get their hands back on the trophy.

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

2016-17: Aviva Premiership

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

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

2017-18: 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 Bears
Champions: Saracens

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