Women’s rugby in England was initially run by the Women’s Rugby Football Union on a British Isles-wide basis. The Women’s Premiership was formed in 1990 as the top tier of women’s rugby in the British Isles. In 1994, the Rugby Football Union for Women was formed and took over the management of women’s rugby in England, including the Women’s Premiership, after Scotland, Ireland and Wales left the Women’s Rugby Football Union. At the start, most of the teams in the league were University teams. Since the RFUW took over and Professionalism was permitted in 1996, the university teams were gradually replaced by women’s clubs associated with professional and semi-professional men’s clubs as they were able to give the women’s team the funding to be able to compete.
Promotion and relegation in the Women’s Premiership was determined by the lowest placed team playing against the winner of a play off between the winners of Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South. If the Premiership team won, there was no promotion/relegation that year. It is noted that promoted teams often failed to win during the regular league season during their first season in the Women’s Premiership, including Old Albanians Ladies and Thurrock T-Birds, who were relegated in 2013 after losing to Aylesford Bulls Ladies in the 2013 playoff.
During seasons that preceded the Women’s Rugby World Cup, promotion and relegation was suspended for that season. In 2014, Thurrock appealed against this ruling to the RFUW, claiming that some Women’s Premiership clubs were actively attempting to block promotion and relegation in Women’s Rugby World Cup years.