The first season of rugby league (1895-96) saw all the breakaway clubs play in a single league competition. The addition of new teams and the problems of travelling led to the league being split in two for the following season; into the Yorkshire League and the Lancashire League. This arrangement lasted until the 1901-02, when the top clubs from each league resigned and formed a single new competition. The following season the remaining clubs in the Yorkshire and Lancashire Leagues were re-organised to form a second division.
In 1905-06 the two divisions were re-combined into a single competition. Clubs played all the teams in their own county on a home-and-away basis, results counting towards the re-formed Yorkshire and Lancashire Leagues. They also organised inter-county fixtures on an individual basis; all results were collated into a single table for the Championship. In order to even up the competition a top-four play-off series was used to determine the Championship.
Apart from the interventions of the world wars, this system was retained until 1962-63, when the league briefly returned to a two divisional system. This lasted only two years, and in 1964-65 they went back to one large division subdivided into county leagues, but the play-off were expanded to the top 16 teams.
In 1973-74 they again went back to two divisions. The play-off and the Yorkshire and Lancashire League were abandoned, though a new play-off type competition, the Premiership, was introduced.
For completeness, this table includes championships from the Super League era.
|1903-04||Bradford (PA) 1|
|1915-19||No competition due to World War I|
|1922-23||Hull Kingston Rovers 1|
|1924-25||Hull Kingston Rovers 1|
|1931-32||St Helens 1|
|1939-45||No competition due to World War 2|
|1950-51||Workington Town 1|
|1952-53||St Helens 1|
|1958-59||St Helens 1|
|1965-66||St Helens 1|
|1966-67||Wakefield Trinity 1|
|1967-68||Wakefield Trinity 1|
|1969-70||St Helens 1|
|1970-71||St Helens 1|
|1978-79||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1983-84||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1984-85||Hull Kingston Rovers|
|1999||St Helens 1|
|2000||St Helens 1|
|2001||Bradford Bulls 1|
|2002||St Helens 1|
|2003||Bradford Bulls 1|
|2004||Leeds Rhinos 1|
|2005||Bradford Bulls 1|
|2006||St Helens 1|
|2007||Leeds Rhinos 1|
|2008||Leeds Rhinos 1|