Championship clubs withdraw from Challenge Cup

The four Championship clubs left in the Challenge Cup have now confirmed their withdrawal from the competition.

The five Championship and League One clubs had been placed in a difficult position ahead of the sixth round, which is scheduled to take place on the weekend of August 22/23.

Sheffield were first to confirm their withdrawal, and that has been followed by York, Featherstone and Widnes on Tuesday morning.

With their league season now cancelled, all five clubs were given until the end of July to confirm their participation in the competition.

But with no league action, they would have had to get players off furlough and resume training for just one match – which is cost prohibitive and also has player welfare concerns, given their Super League opponents would have already been in action for three weeks.

Featherstone have been critical of the decision to cancel the league season, and say that the decision to withdraw has effectively been forced on them.

CEO Davide Longo said: “We are extremely disappointed that Featherstone Rovers will no longer be participating in this year’s Coral Challenge Cup. We had limited options available to us and due to the Championship season being cancelled and we believe the Challenge Cup was compromised in 2020.

“Our club has a proud history in the competition, we value and respect the traditions that the cup brings to the game. and would like to apologise to Coral and at the same time thank them for their continued support of the cup.”

Featherstone had been due to play a local derby against Wakefield in the sixth round.

York chairman Jon Flatman said: “I know this outcome is one which will disappoint many fans and also has our staff and playing group however it is the only sensible decision at this time.

“The decision has been made with plans for a very exciting future in mind and announcements will be forthcoming in due course.”

The City Knights were due to face Castleford, having beat Rochdale 70-12 in the previous round.

Sheffield were scheduled to play Hull, and they too have confirmed their withdrawal.

An Eagles statement said: “Despite our thanks going to the RFL for their continued hard work we are disappointed in their decision not to further support those non-Super League clubs who remain in the Coral Challenge Cup.

“Player welfare was the overriding factor in exiting this competition. Super League sides will have played three rounds before the next stage of the Cup was due to take place compared to over five months since our last competitive fixture. It was felt it wasn’t safe to compete, and to do so would risk serious injury to our players.”

Widnes were the fourth team to confirm their withdrawal, though they have left the door open to participate in the RFL’s autumn competition.

The seven-times Challenge Cup winners beat Swinton in round five and were due to host Catalans in the last 16.

A statement said: “After long consultations on the viability of returning to play, the club has decided to withdraw from the competition for this year.

“This decision has been a complex one, and one that the Vikings took time to consider all angles before making a final verdict.

“With the RFL confirming the 2020 Betfred Championship season as null and void earlier this week, Widnes Vikings did not deem it viable to return for what could potentially be a single fixture in the Challenge Cup.”

There are reports that the sixth round draw may be re-done with the 10 remaining Super League clubs, following Toronto’s withdrawal.

As the Wolfpack were due to face Newcastle, it would mean one team in the quarter-finals receiving a bye.

There are three all Super League ties currently scheduled in the sixth-round – Wigan against Warrington and Salford versus St Helens were slated to be played as a double header at the John Smith’s Stadium live on BBC on Saturday August 22.

The other tie saw Leeds come up against Hull KR, who narrowly beat Leigh in the previous round.

All of those games may now be torn up for a revised draw, which was discussed in a meeting on Monday night.

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