Theatre of Dreams – but not this year

Upfront: The League Express opinion column (19/10/20)

Wembley has been and gone.

Normally, closely following Wembley is Old Trafford, but it appears that won’t be the case.

For the first time ever, the Grand Final is not set to be staged at the Theatre of Dreams.

Manchester United’s congested fixture list is set to prevent the ground from hosting the game.

Initially, there had been no issues, despite Covid. However, the recent Champions League draw has impacted on the stadium’s availability and its ability to host the game.

United apparently proposed that the Grand Final should instead be played on December 6th, a week later than the scheduled November 28th showpiece. But that wasn’t satisfactory for Super League as player contracts run out on November 30th and it causes further issues with the current schedule.

As a result, Super League is now after a new host and a decision will be needed quickly. It’s only six weeks until the Grand Final will be upon us, leaving organisers little time to work with.

League Express understands a number of possibilities are being considered, but a northern venue is almost a certainty.

It also appears a football-based facility is the most likely outcome, or certainly the current thinking.

For Super League, a lot will come down to financial viability. Anfield and St James’ Park have been two recent venues, but the cost involved in taking games there, without the revenue of match tickets coming in, means they’re likely to be unfeasible.

But Super League wants a ground that looks aesthetically pleasing for its showpiece event, meaning that an attractive stadium is being pursued.

The prospect of taking the game to Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium or Hull FC’s KCOM Stadium are likely to be discussed. With neither club set to be in the top four, there is no risk of them gaining an unnecessary advantage while their size and facilities provide a facility that can be dressed up for the occasion.

It’s a decision set to be discussed in the coming fortnight.

Losing Old Trafford is an unwelcome distraction, but it’s not the most difficult problem Super League has had to face in a very difficult year.

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