Revamped Challenge Cup Final day staying at Wembley
The Challenge Cup Final is staying at Wembley.
After speculation the final for rugby league’s showpiece knockout competition could be moved, the RFL have confirmed a new long-term deal to stage the decider at the National Stadium until 2027.
A date has also been set for the 2019 final - Saturday August 24 - and a date for 2020, which has been brought forward to Saturday, July 18.
Wigan Warriors, who have won the Challenge Cup a record 19 times, last reached Wembley in 2017, losing to Hull FC, and played in the first Wembley Final in 1929.
And chief executive of the Rugby Football League Ralph Rimmer is pleased the final will continue at the historic venue.
He said: “This is a significant and exciting day for the Challenge Cup, and the game’s relationship with Wembley Stadium.
“Next year we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 1929. Rugby League is proud of the length and strength of that association – Wembley Stadium has been the setting for so many of the greatest matches and memories in the game’s history, with Catalans Dragons writing another chapter when they became the first overseas club to win the Cup earlier this year.
“We are therefore delighted to confirm the extension of that relationship until 2027.
Next year also sees the introduction of the 1985 Cup - a second chance for Championship and League One clubs to reach Wembley in a further bid to add a spark to Cup Final day, which saw a disappointing 50,672 crowd watch Catalans Dragons beat Warrington last August.
Full details will be announced with the Betfred Championship and League One fixtures on Sunday week, but the clubs have agreed after a meeting last week to introduce the new competition, with the final being staged on the same day as the Challenge Cup final.
Rimmer added: “We believe the introduction of the 1895 Cup will give that relationship another boost. It’s a recognition that the game has changed since the onset of full-time professionalism in the Super League era, meaning that for a good number of the Championship and League One clubs who have won the Challenge Cup in the past, reaching Wembley currently seems a distant dream. This innovation makes that dream of Wembley much more realistic and achievable.
“We’ve seen in football, with the EFL Trophy that was introduced for teams for the third and fourth tiers of their professional structure as the Associate Members’ Cup in 1983, that the introduction of a realistic additional chance to reach Wembley can have a rejuvenating effect on clubs.
“With the 1895 Cup, we want to recognise the contribution of our non-Super League clubs to the game’s history since its founding as the Northern Union 123 years ago – and provide an exciting new chance for their players and supporters to taste the magic of Wembley.
“With the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match continuing to provide a unique opportunity for some potential future stars to play at Wembley Stadium, we’ve tried to create a Challenge Cup Final Day package which will breathe new life into rugby league’s big day out.”