Wembley revolution for Rugby League

The Challenge Cup Final is set to stay at Wembley for the foreseeable future after the RFL agreed a new partnership with the national stadium.

A new agreement has been reached that will see the showpiece event remain at Wembley until 2027. The deal will also see the competition moved forward, with plans in place to move the final to July in 2020.

And in a further twist, an additional game will be staged on the day of the final after the RFL launched a new competition that will give clubs outside of Super League the chance to play at Wembley every year.

The 1895 Cup has been established after clubs agreed to introduce the competition last week, with the final set to take place on the same day as the Challenge Cup Final.

“This is a significant and exciting day for the Challenge Cup, and the game’s relationship with Wembley Stadium,” RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said.

“Next year we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 1929. Rugby League is proud of the length and strength of that association – Wembley Stadium has been the setting for so many of the greatest matches and memories in the game’s history, with Catalans Dragons writing another chapter when they became the first overseas club to win the Cup earlier this year.

“We are therefore delighted to confirm the extension of that relationship until 2027.

“We believe the introduction of the 1895 Cup will give that relationship another boost. It’s a recognition that the game has changed since the onset of full-time professionalism in the Super League era, meaning that for a good number of the Championship and League One clubs who have won the Challenge Cup in the past, reaching Wembley currently seems a distant dream. This innovation makes that dream of Wembley much more realistic and achievable.

“We’ve seen in football, with the EFL Trophy that was introduced for teams for the third and fourth tiers of their professional structure as the Associate Members’ Cup in 1983, that the introduction of a realistic additional chance to reach Wembley can have a rejuvenating effect on clubs.

“With the 1895 Cup, we want to recognise the contribution of our non-Super League clubs to the game’s history since its founding as the Northern Union 123 years ago – and provide an exciting new chance for their players and supporters to taste the magic of Wembley.

“With the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match continuing to provide a unique opportunity for some potential future stars to play at Wembley Stadium, we’ve tried to create a Challenge Cup Final Day package which will breathe new life into Rugby League’s big day out.”