News is emerging that the RFL are considering moving the Challenge Cup Final away from Wembley Stadium to a new venue from 2018. After earlier in the week announcing that the Magic Weekend could be moved from Newcastle from next year the sport’s governing body have taken their plans one step further by suggesting they are looking at possible new venues for the Challenge Cup Final. While nothing is set in stone this would be a highly controversial move with a likely backlash from the rugby league community who see the Wembley final and day out as part of the sports proud heritage and tradition which should not be messed with.
The Challenge Cup Final has been played at the National Stadium when available since 1929. Every rugby league fan up and down the land has some affinity to the cup final and days out at Wembley. As we all know our two clubs have their fair share of euphoric and heart-breaking Wembley moments that are part of the folklore of their club. Arguably the proudest days in both Hull FC and Hull KR’s history were at Wembley. Hull KR’s 10-5 win over their bitter rivals Hull FC in 1980 will never be forgotten by red and white supporters or their black and white counterparts for contrasting reasons. Hull FC fans endured some rotten days at Wembley but that was all put to rest last year when they finally broke their Wembley duck. I can confidently predict this proposed move would go down like a lead balloon in the city of Hull and across the Rugby League heartlands.
The RFL’s chief executive Roger Draper has acknowledged that it would take a “brave man” to move the final away from Wembley but has openly admitted other stadiums are being considered. He claims that the Cup final is now the RFL’s “third biggest property” and has “lost it’s shine”, I challenge him to ask any Hull FC fan if it has lost it’s shine! He claims that the Wembley showpiece has fallen behind Magic Weekend in the rugby league pecking order which is ludicrous in my opinion as they are two totally different events. He justified the statement by saying more fans are attracted to Magic Weekend, well let’s do the maths shall we? Fans of 12 clubs attend Magic Weekend for a carnival of the sport it is not comparable to the Wembley Final which is mainly attended by fans of the two finalists half of whom will go home elated and the other half heartbroken. You can’t recreate that feeling you go through on cup final day at Magic Weekend and Wembley Stadium is irreplaceable for such an important game.
This all seems like another RFL expansion scheme but some parts of the sport shouldn’t be messed with the Challenge Cup Final is one of those fundamental pillars of the sport that should be untouchable. Everyone looks forward to a trip to the National Stadium for the cup final and we all have Wembley memories I find it hard to believe another Stadium could replicate that.
Various Stadia are being bandied about as options including The London Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground amongst others. While a move away from Wembley is nowhere near agreed or finalised I think it’s fair to ask, would any of those Stadia be an adequate or justifiable replacement for Wembley? I don’t think so!.