WIGAN’S Challenge Cup quarter-final against St Helens WILL take place at the DW Stadium.
But Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan and Latics counterpart Dave Whelan have both heavily criticised the RFL for forcing the venue saga on them in the first place.
Wigan were ordered by the game’s governing body that it must take place on the Saturday afternoon (2.30pm KO), so it can be screened live by BBC.
That’s despite the fact Latics play the following day in a potentially-vital Premier League clash.
Talks have dragged on for days, but the situation has now been resolved with the release of a statement in which Lenagan put the blame firmly on the RFL - and underlined the “togetherness” of the Warriors and Latics camps.
The full statement reads:
Wigan Rugby League Club Ltd were instructed yesterday by the Board of Directors of the Rugby Football League Governing Body (“RFL”) that Wigan must play their quarter-final match against St Helens on Saturday afternoon 12th May at 2:30pm at another stadium if the DW Stadium is not available.
This is in spite of the fact that Wigan informed the RFL formally on 6 October 2011 in writing in Wigan’s pre-season “dates-to-avoid” submission to the RFL 2012 Season Fixtures Planning Department that the DW would not be available on Saturday/Sunday 12/13 May because of Wigan Athletic’s final Premiership home game on Sunday 13th May.
Immediately following the quarter-final draw on Tuesday 1st May when the position became clear to the RFL which Wigan had pre-advised as a potential problem in October 2011, Wigan offered to play the quarter-final game on the evening of Friday 11th or Monday 14th May at the DW Stadium.
Wigan Warriors refused to jeopardise in any way Wigan Athletic’s crucial last Premiership game of the Season against Wolverhampton Wanderers by a request for Warriors to play at the DW Stadium the day before such an important match.
Wigan Chairman and Owner, Ian Lenagan, commented:“We feel let down by the RFL that they are prepared to countenance the loss of integrity of their famous Challenge Cup competition by removing home advantage from the Challenge Cup holders in a critical and closely competitive quarter-final in order to fit in with preferred television schedules when valid and practical alternative days and times were available.”
“We also feel that the RFL scheduling of Challenge Cup rounds has been poor with three rounds in 30 days followed by 9 weeks before the semi-finals. More importantly, no account seems to have been taken of the clear conflicts with football-shared stadiums on the weekend of the 13th May with immovable Premier League final matches taking place then plus League 1 playoffs. Wigan, Hull and Huddersfield all share stadiums with football clubs and were possible to be in the quarter-finals albeit Wigan are the only Premier League club.”
“Wigan Warriors clearly indicated in their pre-season requested-dates-to-avoid submission to the RFL Operations Department on 6th October 2011 that the Wigan Athletic game on Sunday 13th May should be avoided and it is clearly known by the RFL that Wigan Warriors also cannot play the day before a Premiership match. “
“In spite of these potential conflicts, the Challenge Cup quarter-final was scheduled for that Saturday and Sunday – precisely the dates requested to be avoided by Wigan before the fixtures were established by the RFL.”
“We feel that Wigan and the integrity of the Challenge Cup competition have been penalised unfairly by this instruction to play away from home.”
Whilst hoping that the integrity of the competition would prevail, Wigan identified and negotiated at short notice with stadiums in Leigh, Bolton and Warrington all of whom were extremely helpful – as have been the St Helens club throughout this last difficult 3 days.
Before announcing yesterday the enforced away venue for the Warriors tie, Ian Lenagan discussed again the situation with Dave Whelan since both men are passionate and active supporters of anything Wigan. Even though they both believe it completely wrong that the town of Wigan should be put in this position, the decision was made in these highly exceptional circumstances to attempt to allow the quarter-final tie to be played at the DW Stadium the day prior to the Wigan Athletic game following receipt of a favourable weather forecast. Premier League expressed reservations were answered by Dave Whelan’s assurances that the pitch was in good condition and that special arrangements were in place in these exceptional circumstances to ensure the pitch remained so.
Dave Whelan commented: “It is scandalous to be put in this position but we cannot see Wigan Warriors playing such a game away from home. All Wigan folk, whether primarily rugby or football supporters, come together in wishing to see two such important games shown from the Wigan stadium across the country on successive days next weekend.”
Ian Lenagan commented: “It is excellent to be able to demonstrate publicly the togetherness and strength of football and rugby in Wigan. Having watched personally the Wigan Athletic games against Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Fulham recently, one can touch and feel the respect for the performances of Wigan Athletic as well as Wigan Warriors. I now look forward to great crowds watching both teams together that weekend at the DW Stadium.”