The RFL has confirmed the news first revealed in this week’s issue of League Express, that it has agreed a three-year partnership with betting and gaming company Ladbrokes to become title sponsors of the Rugby League Challenge Cup, which will now be called the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup will be contested by 78 clubs drawn from the First Utility Super League, Kingstone Press Championship and League 1 as well as the community game, Armed Forces, police and the University and College competitions in 2015, a season which marks a historic year for the sport.
The 2015 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final will be played 120 years to the day since Rugby League was founded at a meeting at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895.
The new partnership has been announced ahead of the first round draw on Thursday at Wembley Stadium, which will host the 2015 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final on Saturday August 29.
The only tournament of its kind to include teams from all levels of the sport, Ladbrokes will capitalise on the competition’s growing fan base, which is spearheaded through the sport’s exclusive broadcast partners, the BBC and Sky Sports, who will both televise pre-match build-up, live games, highlights, and post-result analysis. In total, it is estimated that Ladbrokes will benefit from over 1,000 hours of dedicated global TV cover, including over 70 hours of UK coverage.
Neither the RFL nor Ladbrokes have revealed the amount of the sponsorship, although Totalrl.com understands it is a seven-figure sum annually.
RFL Commercial Director Chris Rawlings said; “I am delighted to announce a three-year partnership that will see the sport’s oldest and most prestigious competition become the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
“The Rugby League Challenge Cup is rich in heritage and tradition and it is both significant and fitting that the first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final will be played on Founders Day.”
As part of their association, Ladbrokes will have headline branding at all Ladbrokes Challenge Cup ties, introduce a Responsible Gambling programme for Rugby League players, fans and staff and also introduce the tournament’s inaugural Ladbrokes Player of the Round Award.
Ladbrokes will also work closely with players and personalities on promotional appearances and activities and promote the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup heavily across all their own media channels.
Rawlings added: “Ladbrokes is one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands which has over 800,000 customers and this partnership will bring great benefits to both parties.
“Ladbrokes is the latest major brand to recognise the advantages of associating their brand with Rugby League and it gives me great pleasure to welcome them to the sport’s current existing and impressive commercial portfolio.
“We look forward to working closely with everyone at Ladbrokes and our member clubs to promote this exciting partnership.”
Since the first final in 1897, which saw Batley beat St Helens 10-3 in front of nearly 13,500 people in Leeds, the competition has grown exponentially: last year saw current holders Leeds Rhinos defeat Castleford Tigers in front of almost 80,000 people at Wembley.
Richard Glynn, CEO of Ladbrokes said: “We’re thrilled to begin our sponsorship of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in a historic and momentous year for the sport. Rugby League is without doubt one of the world’s most exciting sports, brimming with energy and adrenaline both on and off the pitch.
“The fans are beyond passionate, and that passion is infectious and spreading quickly across the globe. This exclusive deal will bring Ladbrokes unprecedented access to the action, which all of our customers have become accustomed to as part of The Ladbrokes Life.”
He added: “2015 already promises to be bigger and better, and this is a fantastic opportunity for Ladbrokes to engage with Rugby League stakeholders on both an elite and grassroots level to continue the rapid growth of the sport. We’re looking forward to the season ahead packed full of excitement, thrills and spills, and of course, world class rugby.”