Should Super League clubs enter the Challenge Cup in an earlier round?

THE CHALLENGE CUP is rugby league’s oldest tradition.

Inaugurated in 1896 following the split from the Rugby Football Union, the Challenge Cup is heading into its 127th year, but recently there have been calls to revamp the competition.

With the onset of the summer game in 1996, the Super League Grand Final seemingly took precedence over a trip to Wembley and top flight clubs began to concentrate more of their efforts on Old Trafford.

The sport’s new stakeholders, IMG, have outlined their desire to bring the Challenge Cup back to the fore of the game, but is it as easy as that?

One gripe of the competition is that there are barely any giant-killings anymore due to the fact that Super League teams come into the tournament at the sixth round stage.

Of course, Castleford Lock Lane managed to upset the applecart in 2022 when they beat League One side Oldham

Look to football’s FA Cup; Premier League sides enter in the third round making it quite likely that a lower league side – or even one outside the football league pyramid – will get a massive tie.

In 2019, League Two Newport County beat Premier League side Leicester City – a side 74 places above them in the football league – in a 2-1 masterclass.

Such excitement is rarely seen in the Challenge Cup given the fact that the top flight clubs enter so late.

Of course, there is the argument that player welfare should be looked at in terms of playing more games, but with the loop fixtures set to be scrapped, there would be the potential for at least another Challenge Cup round in a bid to reinstall some of the magic.

There is also the idea that Challenge Cup fixtures should be free for season ticket holders at clubs. The reduced attendances at cup fixtures points to the fact that people simply cannot afford these games on top of league fixtures.

IMG needs to look at different initiatives in a bid to restore the greatness of the cup. This could definitely begin with earlier entry of Super League sides to set up a major payday or a potential giant killing.