BAR one bizarre Super League season when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world and the UK, every Super League Grand Final has been held at Old Trafford.
But, is it time for a change? And if so, where?
Back in 1996 there was no ‘Grand Final’ despite the introduction of the summer game. Instead, there was a ‘Premiership’ which was separate to the Super League competition, but this itself was scrapped just two seasons into the Super League era.
In 1998, therefore, the Grand Final was borne as Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos did battle in the inaugural fixture at Old Trafford.
The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ has been a huge selling point of the final ever since the showpiece event was held at the home of Manchester United, but could there be potential to move it elsewhere under the new direction of IMG?
The sport’s newest stakeholders do not seem afraid to mix things up and have already scrapped the popular Magic Weekend concept.
Not once has the attendance at the Grand Final hit capacity, though Wigan and Leeds’ clash of 2015 and Leeds and Castleford Tigers’ battle in 2017 did come close.
The capacity of Old Trafford is 74,310 and those two finals hit 73,512 and 72,827 respectively.
Of course, since the event’s first staging back in 1998, the attendance grew significantly – and rapidly.
From 43,500 in 1998 to almost 30,000 more when St Helens played Hull FC in 2006 (72,575), Old Trafford hit a note with fans early on.
Perhaps it was the proximity of the ground to the ‘M62 corridor’ or perhaps because people just felt more excited about the competition as a whole, who knows?
Just 60,783 people flocked to Old Trafford in 2022 for the clash between Saints and Leeds – almost 9,000 more went to the same Grand Final in 2011.
Has Old Trafford lost its touch? Or does the Grand Final simply need re-imagining as IMG are striving to do with the Challenge Cup?
If it was moved, where would it be moved to? Could Newcastle United’s St James’ Park take it over after losing the Magic Weekend?
Could the Grand Final be moved to a different location each year in a bid to keep that freshness?