Challenge Cup to undergo major 2025 revamp as Super League entry point changes

Aaron Bower
Wigan Warriors Challenge Cup winners Alamy

Wigan Warriors lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 2024

The Challenge Cup will undergo a radical overhaul for 2025 – with Super League clubs coming into the competition much earlier by a full three rounds and getting a guaranteed away tie against a lower-league team.

The 12 Super League teams currently enter the competition at the last 16 stage, meaning that there are minimal opportunities for clubs in the Championship, League 1 and even the community game to earn a money-spinning tie against major opposition.

However, that will all change in 2025. A number of clubs outside Super League had expressed concerns over the financial viability of competing the Challenge Cup.

For example, Championship teams had to win three rounds just to get the chance of playing a Super League team and even then, it was not guaranteed. But in 2025, teams from Championship and League 1 will enter in Round Two – and if they win one game, they will progress to Round Three, when the Super League clubs enter.

Furthermore, all Super League teams will be guaranteed to be drawn away, meaning that 12 of the 20 Round Two winners are assured of a tie against elite-level opposition, potentially providing lucrative income and creating more meaningful, interesting cup ties.

Love Rugby League revealed in extensive detail earlier this year how many clubs competing in the Challenge Cup actually make a loss each and every year – but the hope is these changes will reduce the likelihood of that happening.

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It is envisaged that could even take place before the start of the 2025 Super League season, though the finer details are yet to be confirmed in that regard. But it represents a significant chance to the way the cup is formatted, and has shades of the pre-Super League days, when clubs had to win far more games just to get to Wembley.

The clubs were informed of the new structure – and also a revised prize money structure – at a Rugby League Commercial forum today, and there will now be further discussions over standardised ticket pricing across all Betfred Challenge Cup ties.

Rhodri Jones, the Managing Director of RL Commercial, said: “After extensive consultation with clubs and other stakeholders, we believe this new structure for the Betfred Challenge Cup will deliver a number of benefits to the competition and to the sport as a whole.

“It was pleasing to announce an attendance of 64,845 for Finals Day at Wembley this month, the fourth consecutive year of growth since the 2020 Final was played behind closed doors.

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“But we recognised a need to reshape and reinvigorate the early rounds of the competition – which we believe will allow us to maintain that trend at Wembley next June.

“The 2025 Betfred Challenge Cup will again start with a First Round featuring teams from the community game, but all the League One and Championship clubs will enter at the Second Round stage, knowing that victory will secure a place in the Third Round when the 12 Betfred Super League clubs enter – and will be seeded to play away from home.

“That returns the competition closer to its traditions, with top flight clubs joining in the round of 32 in the winter months – the start of the road to the Wembley Final in the spring.

“We hope that holding the draws for the Second and Third Rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup together in January will provide a pre-season talking point for all professional clubs.”

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