This year was the first time, as a neutral, I've left the ground with a very melancholy feeling about the final. I think melancholy is the right word, not disappointment because the game itself wasn't bad & the spectacle is always great. Maybe worried might be a more fair reflection. The feeling actually started in our usual pre-match watering hole of the Allsop Arms which, though busy, was nowhere near as "rammed" as it has been in previous years. The same was true of the tube ride & to a certain extent the walk up Wembley way. There seemed far fewer food outlets etc. Then inside the stadium, there was the mass of empty seats and a more subdued atmosphere than usual. For me, despite the best efforts of Hull FC, the challenge cup final is THE event of the rugby league calendar and its such a shame to see it in the state it is now. Yesterday was perhaps the most dramatic illustration as many have stated on here: fewer neutrals, fewer "lower league" shirts, fewer amateur shirts & even fewer fancy dress.
I don't know what the answer is, but rescheduling would definitely help. A more practical gap between semis & final (4-5 weeks), more intensive promotion & less "bargain basement discounting" should also be considered.
Despite my melancholy/worries, I'll still be going again next year as it is, and always will be, the best date in the rugby league calendar.
- Bomballey likes this