With the Grand Final set to be staged away from Old Trafford for the first time ever, the question now is simple. Where?
The Theatre of Dreams has become a home for rugby league and the Grand Final, now, it needs to find a new one.
So where next? Super League want a cost-effective stadium that is also aesthetically pleasing.
To start with, we’ve ruled out a few obvious contenders. Anfield and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium are both looking likely to be too expensive.
Several grounds that day, such as the Etihad and John Smith’s Stadium, are in use that day due to football commitments.
Other grounds that host Football League clubs could also be in use as the FA Cup first round takes place that weekend, meaning the availability of stadiums, such as Hull FC’s KCOM and Doncaster’s Keepmoat, are unclear.
The idea of going to France, where crowds are allowed, is also appealing, but it would likely prove a non-starter due to travel restrictions that are in place anyway.
Taking all of that into account, we’ve come up with five possible locations.
OK. We know what you’re thinking.
Odsal is far from being appealing on the eye, with its faded seats and paint stripping from the barricades.
But on the flip side, it is definitely available, with no club playing there this season, and the pitch is in good shape as it is being used for other purposes. The RFL recently used it for a tag tournament competition.
Additionally, the cost will be low given the RFL own the freehold.
It’s also an iconic venue that the vast majority of the game would like to see remain a part of the sport in the future.
This would be a way to acknowledge that it remains in decent shape, and build up hope of a permanent return for Bradford Bulls in the future.
St James’ Park
The pros and cons are effectively chalk and cheese in comparison to Odsal.
On one hand, it is a first-class facility that looks like a stadium worthy of hosting a game of such magnitude.
The flip side is that the cost would likely be significant, certainly compared to Odsal.
Super League was due to return to the Toon this year, with Magic Weekend heading back to Newcastle.
Covid dictated that wouldn’t happen, but this would be an opportunity to build that relationship, especially ahead of the World Cup and next year’s Magic event, while also providing a stadium befitting of the Grand Final.
Newcastle United play away that weekend, for anyone wondering.
Back to West Yorkshire, Elland Road is available that weekend and has a history of hosting big rugby league games.
It hosted the Third Test when England and New Zealand clashed in 2018 and had previously held Tri-Nations games years before that.
Leeds Rhinos even used it for a game against Hull KR while Headingley was being redeveloped.
Like St James’ Park, it’s a big stadium that would match the occasion and could be easily be dressed up to give a big-match feel.
Cost may be an issue here again.
Leigh Sports Village
Though not as big or eye-catching as the two previous grounds, there’s a lot going for LSV.
It’s a modern stadium that would easily be able to comply with Covid measures, it’s easily accessible and is a great ground for broadcasting logistics.
It’s neutral, would cost less than some of the other stadiums on this list and could be made to look the part for the occasion.
A bit of a dark horse, but there are worse options out there.
Headingley/Halliwell Jones/Totally Wicked
We’ve cheated a bit here, but would an existing Super League ground be the most sensible fit?
Super League fixtures have predominantly taken place at Headingley, Halliwell Jones and Totally Wicked Stadium post-lockdown.
The issue with any of them hosting the Grand Final is that their tenants could end up in it, meaning they would be deemed to have an advantage.
But if all three grounds were put on standby that weekend – they aren’t being used for other reasons currently, the game could be played at any of the venues not featuring their home club.
It would be a bit of a let down to be going to a ground you play at every week for a major final, but it’s logical, cost-effective, all are modern facilities and would be easy for broadcasters given how often they go there.