Betfred have signed a one-year deal to become title sponsors of the Challenge Cup to add to their long-running partnership with the Super League.
It means the Betfred Challenge Cup winners will be crowned at Wembley in July, with the Betfred Super League trophy to be presented at Old Trafford in October.
The deal also includes sponsorship of the Women’s Challenge Cup, completing another double with the Betfred Women’s Super League.
And Betfred will complete an historic Challenge Cup treble in 2021 as they will become the first title partners of the Wheelchair Rugby League Challenge Cup.
All three Challenge Cups are currently held by Leeds Rhinos, whose Men’s team beat Salford Red Devils at Wembley last October to follow the triumphs of their Women’s and Wheelchair teams in 2019.
The Betfred Challenge Cup is set to kick off the 2021 Rugby League season on the weekend of March 21, with eight ties involving clubs from Betfred Championship and League 1 – before the 12 Betfred Super League clubs enter at the Third Round stage on the weekend of April 11.
The draw for the First and Second Rounds will be held next Thursday (February 11).
The Quarter Finals are scheduled for the weekend of May 8-9, and the Semi Finals on June 5, leading to the Final at Wembley on Saturday July 17.
Details of the Betfred Women’s and Wheelchair Challenge Cups for 2021 will be announced soon.
Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said: “We are excited to announce an extension of Rugby League’s partnership with Betfred to include the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Challenge Cups in 2021.
“The Challenge Cup is Rugby League’s oldest knockout competition and even in the challenging circumstances of 2020, we were reminded of its enduring appeal with a national television audience of 1.6m watching Leeds Rhinos beat Salford Red Devils in the first – and hopefully last – Final played behind closed doors.
“The Women’s and Wheelchair competitions are more recent additions to the Rugby League landscape but already they have a history of memorable moments, and after the frustrations of 2020 I know all our players and clubs will be relishing the prospect of returning in 2021.
“Betfred have already shown their commitment to Women’s Rugby League by becoming the first title partners of the Betfred Women’s Super League in 2019, a reflection of the growing prestige of that competition.
“I’m especially pleased that they will also become the first title partners for the Wheelchair Challenge Cup, and at the RFL we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with them to increase the profile of all three of our Challenge Cups – building on their support for the Women’s Super League and also Betfred Championship and League 1.
“This follows the recent confirmation of an enhanced three-year extension of the BBC’s long-term relationship with the Challenge Cup which also includes coverage of the Women’s and Wheelchair competitions.
“We are convinced that sport will play a key role in the regional and national recovery from Covid through 2021, and determined that Rugby League and the three Betfred Challenge Cups will be a big part of that story.”
Betfred boss Fred Done said: “I am delighted to be able to announce further support for the sport of Rugby League in what are incredibly difficult times. The Challenge Cup obviously has a rich heritage and I was also very keen to include both the Women’s Challenge Cup and the Wheelchair Challenge Cup in what is such an important year for the whole sport culminating with the World Cup in October/November.”
The RFL commissioned a new trophy for the Wheelchair Challenge Cup in the winter of 2019-20, from the trophy specialists Fattorini who created the trophy for the original Challenge Cup in 1896-7, and more recently a new Women’s Challenge Cup which was presented for the first time to Leeds in 2019.