Grand Final 'will be at KCOM'... even if Hull FC reach showdown

Super League executive chairman Robert Elstone has defended the decision to take the Grand Final to the KCOM Stadium, even though it will not be a neutral venue if Hull get there.
Hull FC beat Warrington last nightHull FC beat Warrington last night
Hull FC beat Warrington last night

Officials were forced to look for a new venue when Old Trafford, which has hosted the event every year since its inauguration in 1998, became unavailable due to Manchester United fixture clashes and, when the decision was made, Hull were out of the play-off picture.

However, the decision to expand the Grand Final series from four clubs to six opened the door for the Black and Whites, and their unexpected 27-14 win over Warrington in the first elimination play-off on Thursday night means they are just 80 minutes away from reaching the final.

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In a media briefing, Elstone insisted that, even if Hull beat Wigan in next Thursday's semi-final, the KCOM will remain the venue for the November 27 decider, which will be played behind closed doors.

"We elected to go to KCOM when it was still the top four and Hull were unlikely to get there so that was a factor," Elstone said.

"However, we're contracted to KCOM and we're going to KCOM. A huge amount of work is going in to making KCOM look brilliant. A substantial budget is being applied to create a really special television event.

"We're targeting a record television audience for that event. There is a lot of work going on to make that a special occasion."

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Elstone also defended the apparent low attendance threshold set for clubs seeking to fill the 12th place in Super League in 2021 made vacant by the failure of Toronto to regain admission.

Among a list of minimum criteria circulated to the aspirant Championship clubs is a 5,000-capacity stadium and an average crowd of at least 2,000 in 2018 or 2019.

Critics say a comparison with the 6,500-7,000 attendance Toronto averaged in the Championship in those two seasons casts Super League as a small-time organisation, but Elstone argues it is unfair to link the two and insists the bar will be set higher than a 2,000 average.

"That is a fairly modest target, it's a threshold by which clubs have to get over to be able to apply," he said.

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"I think the bar will be set higher and one of the key criteria of evaluation will be fan base, both in terms of levels of engagement through social media and community but more importantly through the way in which clubs actually convert that engagement into season tickets and a live audience.

"We are looking very carefully at what clubs will bring in those areas, that will be a big part of the evaluation."

Applications have to be submitted by November 30 and a seven-strong panel comprising members of both Super League and the Rugby Football League and chaired by Lord Johnathan Caine will scrutinise the bids and make a decision by December 16.