THE Rugby Football Union has dismissed claims a proposed structure of leagues in the north of England is unfair and forces teams to travel further to games than they’d like.

It wrote to clubs on Thursday to confirm the line-up for next season and promised fixture lists will follow soon.

“The frustration for us has been not knowing,” said Brian Concannon, Winnington Park’s president.

“And that makes it difficult to plan ahead.”

They finished fifth in Lancs/Cheshire Division One last term, their first back at step seven of the English Clubs Championship after they were promoted as champions the previous year.

That section will consist of 14 teams, one more than previously, for the 2019-2020 campaign after Aspatria were transferred from Cumbria Division One.

“We think that makes the league stronger overall,” added Concannon.

Meanwhile Northwich remain a member of North One West, one of two sections in the region at level six.

An email sent by Paul Leary, the RFU’s national competitions manager, this week signalled the end of a process that started last summer.

Back then, the governing body were forced to reach a compromise outside of its own regulations after 19 clubs resigned from their position in the pyramid to join a breakaway Lancashire County League.

They blamed the number of miles they had to cover to fulfil fixtures in Cumbria and a perceived disparity in standard between sides at the top and bottom of divisions.

A one-year solution, which split 18 Cumbrian teams into two sections within their county’s boundary, was imposed and a condition attached that officials would spend last season reviewing the structure.

It was led Jim Chapman, an RFU council member representing Yorkshire, as chairman of a competitions development sub-committee.

A first round of consultation before Christmas led to clubs being presented with three possible structures in January.

That list was reduced to two alternatives the following month ahead of a ballot.

Matt Bryan, a competitions development officer for the RFU and a member of Chapman’s group, reported earlier this week that 133 clubs cast a vote.

Some 93 per cent of those based in Cheshire supported the structure that will now be implemented, while 57 per cent of Lancashire’s contingent did the same.

Members of the North Divisional Organising Committee approved it in March too.

A delay since was prompted by constituent bodies in both Cheshire and Lancashire lodging separate appeals against that decision.

They proposed their own solution, excluding Cumbrian rivals, for leagues at level seven and below after discussions between representatives.

It included teams from the Lancashire County League, and argued they should not be punished for a decision to leave the English Clubs Championship by having to start at the bottom if they asked to return.

“That would create misery all around and there would be no incentive to rejoin,” read a letter written by Cheshire RFU, and seen by the Guardian, serving notice of an appeal that was heard last week.

“The schism with Lancashire clubs would be perpetuated and a distinct possibility it would be extended.”

Winnington Park were listed as one of 13 initial members of a Lancashire and Cheshire Premier Division.

However the RFU was unconvinced.

“A panel has considered all of the submissions made,” it said in a brief statement.

“The appeal on behalf of Lancashire RFU and another from Cheshire RFU have both been dismissed and our league proposal accepted.”

Cheshire RFU declined an invitation to comment.

Fixtures will be released this month, and teams have 14 days from the moment they are published to decide whether they want to withdraw.

The Lancashire County League said on Thursday that two clubs – Colne & Nelson and Dukinfield – have applied to join next season.

It has also extended a deadline for expressions of interest.

English Clubs Championship

North Division

Provisional line-up for the 2019-2020 season

North One West (Level Six)

Altrincham Kersal (promoted from Lancs/Cheshire Division One)

Birkenhead Park

Bowdon (promoted from Lancs/Cheshire Division One)

Broughton Park



Keswick (promoted from Cumbria Division One)




Vale of Lune (relegated from North Premier)



Wilmslow (relegated from North Premier)

Lancs/Cheshire Division One (Level Seven)

Anselmians (relegated from North One West)

Aspatria (level transfer from Cumbria Division One)

Aspull (promoted from Lancs/Cheshire Division Two)


De La Salle (relegated from North One West)

Eccles (promoted from Lancs/Cheshire Division Two)



Manchester (relegated from North One West)





Winnington Park