Champions League group-stage format one of six solutions for rejuvenated Challenge Cup competition

THE Challenge Cup is Britain’s most prestigious rugby league competition, however, in recent years it has become less of a celebration.

There has been a great focus on trying to reinvent the Challenge Cup under IMG, with the current format and structure leading to a loss in magic of the competition.

Rugby League Commercial managing director Rhodri Jones revealed that there will be major differences to the Challenge Cup that will come into being in 2024.

“I think looking ahead at ’24 there will be some differences to the domestic calendar, the Challenge Cup being a key part of that. That was part of IMG’s recommendations, one of the key pieces of work in the off-season has been around what does 2024 look like,” Jones said.

“I think moving the date from August, when traditionally a lot of people are away on holiday, is probably a good starting point.”

“There are six solutions at the moment that we are working through. I think two of those six will be viable; and those two we will be taking forward in a bit more detail,” Jones said.

“It has felt over the last couple of years that the sixth round has just landed; and we haven’t started the competition off with a bang. That’s something we’ve been looking at – how can we provide a starting point for the Challenge Cup.”

Jones also professed that the Challenge Cup sixth round needs to be spruced up, rather than just be an interlude between rounds of Super League.

“How can we provide a starting point to the Challenge Cup, rather than it just falling between rounds five and six of Super League?

“That’s how I’d differentiate potentially what’s going to happen going forward, and I think the other bit is probably the decline of the Challenge Cup has been in some part down to the creation of Magic, which we all know is kind of up for debate in terms of loop fixtures. There’s a multitude of ingredients that could change the fortunes of Wembley.”

The managing director confirmed that a Champions League-style group stage is being considered, though two-legged ties were vetoed.

“There are six solutions at the moment that we’re working through, I think two of the six will be viable and two we’ll take forward in a bit more detail. Of the six your example (the Champions League) is there within those six.”

Jones was then asked why the final is in August.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know – that was in the diary before I started at RL Commercial.

“I would assume it’s around Wembley availability and something they might have later on in August.”