Catalans Dragons’ place in the Challenge Cup has been confirmed after the holders came to an agreement with the RFL.
The Dragons, who famously beat Warrington at Wembley last year, had been asked to pay a bond in the region of £500,000 to enter the competition to cover any potential losses due to their involvement in another final. The RFL lost a significant sum of expected revenue last year after the final attracted a crowd of just over 50,000.
Toronto and Toulouse had also been asked to pay the same fee but refused, leaving them out of the competition. Catalans, however, insist they would play in the cup, but refused to pay to do so. As a result, the RFL faced the prospect of kicking the holders out, but an agreement has now been reached.
It remains to be seen how the news effects Toronto’s potential involvement, with their UK Business Development Manager Martin Vickers confirming in League Express that they are still keen to play.
“We are watching the Catalans development closely as our preference would be to participate in the Challenge Cup,” he said. “We are not in any direct discussions ourselves with the RFL on this matter at the present time.”
Meanwhile, the RFL has also confirmed Coral as the new sponsors of the competition. The betting firm has agreed a two-year, seven-figure deal to sponsor both the men’s and women’s competitions.
“This is a really significant day both for the Challenge Cup, and for women’s Rugby League,” said Ralph Rimmer, the RFL chief executive. “The men’s Challenge Cup is one of the iconic competitions and trophies of British sport, with more than 120 years of history, and the famous Wembley final televised live to the nation and the world by the BBC.
“The Women’s Challenge Cup may not have that history, but Coral’s enthusiasm for it to be part of a joint sponsorship deal confirms our determination that it is set for a really exciting future.”
The governing body has confirmed the semi-final will also return to the University of Bolton Stadium but the day will now be a tripleheader, with the Women’s final also taking place.