Cumbria League (formerly Cumbria 1) is a competitive rugby union league at tier 8 of the English rugby union system run by the English Rugby Football Union for club sides based in Cumbria. It was previously a tier 7 league but the creation of North 2 West has demoted it to level 8. Promoted teams typically go up to North 2 West and since Cumbria 2 was cancelled at the end of the 2018-19 season there is no relegation. Each season a team from Cumbria 1 is picked to take part in the RFU Senior Vase - a national competition for clubs at level 8. The original Cumbria league was formed at the start of the 1992–93 season when the North-West North 1 division was cancelled.
Up until the end of the 2017-18 season the Cumbria League was a single division involving 10 clubs and ranked at tier 8 of the English rugby union system. The champions were automatically promoted to the now discontinued North Lancashire/Cumbria league and up until the 2016-17 season the second placed team faced the runner up from Lancashire (North) for the final promotion place until Lancashire (North) was cancelled. There was no relegation due to it having been the lowest competitive league for Rugby Union in Cumbria. It ran alongside the Cumbria 2 North & West and Cumbria 2 South & East Merit Leagues.
This changed for the 2018-19 season due to RFU having to restructuring the northern leagues after 19 Lancashire based clubs withdrew from the league system to form their own competition. The result was that the Cumbrian clubs based in North Lancashire/Cumbria joined the top 3 Cumbria League sides in Cumbria 1, while the rest of the Cumbrian League sides along with a handful of 2nd XV teams formed Cumbria 2.
Another change to the structure from the 2018-19 season was that the division would play two stages - the first involving all eight teams to decide who would be contesting promotion and relegation during the second stage when the division was divided into two mini leagues (one promotion/one relegation).
The Cumbria league was formed from teams from the old North-West North 1 division when it was disbanded at the end of the 1991–92 season. Promotion was to Cumbria/Lancs North and as the basement division for clubs in the region there was no relegation. Initially a tier 10 league, the creation of National 5 North for the 1993–94 season meant that Cumbria/Lancs North dropped to become a tier 11 league.
Northern league restructuring by the RFU at the end of the 1999–00 season saw the cancellation of North West 1, North West 2 and North West 3 (tiers 7-9). This meant that Cumbria became a tier 8 league, with promotion continuing to North Lancs/Cumbria. As the lowest ranked league for clubs in the region there was no relegation until the introduction of Cumbria 2 at the end of the 2017–18 season.
Restructuring of the north-west leagues at the end of the 2017–18 season, including the cancellation of North Lancs/Cumbria and the introduction of Cumbria 2, meant that Cumbria was renamed to Cumbria and became a tier 7 league. Promotion was now up to North West 1 while relegation was to the new Cumbria 2.
After just one season Cumbria 2 was cancelled and Cumbria 1 reverted back to being a single division named Cumbria, while the introduction of North 2 West for the 2019–20 season meant that Cumbria dropped back to being a tier 8 league with promotion into this new division and no relegation.
From the 2018-19 season onwards there will be a play-off between the runners-up of Cumbria 1 and North 2 West for the third and final promotion place to North 1 West. Previously Cumbria League sides had a play-off against Lancashire (North) for a place in the discontinued North Lancashire/Cumbria division (see following sub section). As of 2019–20 North 2 West sides have one win to Cumbria's zero; and the home side has one win to the away side's zero.
Cumbria 1 v North 2 West promotion play-off results
Between the 2000–01 and 2016-17 seasons there was a play-off between the runners-up of the Cumbria League and Lancashire (North) for the third and final promotion place to North Lancashire/Cumbria. The team with the superior league record has home advantage in the tie. At the end of the 2016–17 season the Lancashire (North) teams have been the most successful with eleven wins to the Cumbria League team's four; and the home team has won promotion on twelve occasions compared to the away team's three. Since the cancellation of Lancashire (North) the play-off has been discontinued.
Cumbria League v Lancashire (North) promotion play-off results
^Due to RFU restructuring of the Cumbria and Lancashire leagues, Upper Eden were not promoted despite finishing as champions.
^Due to RFU restructuring of the Cumbria and Lancashire leagues, 7 of the 10 Cumbria League teams were relegated to the new Cumbria 2 division.
^The cancellation of Cumbria 2 saw the league expand from 8 to 13 teams.
^Bowdon won the 2018–19 promotion playoff by default as Aspatria were unwilling to take part.
^Despite losing the playoff, Aspatria would later also be promoted due to the restructuring of the northern leagues.
^Despite finishing at the top of the 2000-01 Cumbrian League according to the RFU website, Hawcoat Park actually went into the playoff rather than runners up St. Benedict's. Reasons for this are not clear, although St. Benedict's did play one less game than Hawcoat Park and were level on points but with a weaker for/against record, so maybe an average points total was used to determine the champions.
^Despite finished third in the 2002-03 Cumbrian League, Upper Eden went into the promotion playoff as champions Netherall were not promoted, with second placed Windermere going up instead.
^Despite winning the 2003-04 Cumbrian League, Egremont had to take part in the promotion playoff usually reserved for league runners up.
^Due to changes to English rugby union league system by the RFU there would be no promotion playoff at the end of 2008-09 season. Instead the champions and runners up from both leagues would be automatically promoted.
^Despite finishing the 2009-10 Cumbrian League in third place, Millom went into the promotion playoff game instead of runners up Egremont. Millom had actually played two less games and were only two points off the runner up spot so this may explain why they qualified for the playoff.
^Due to restructuring of the north-west leagues by the RFU there would be no promotion playoff at the end of 2013-14 season. Instead the champions and runners up from both leagues would be automatically promoted.
^English Rugby Football Union, North Adult Merit Leagues, [online], 12 February 2013, Available from: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
[Last Accessed 17:00 16 April 2012]