Keep Challenge Cup memories on free-to-air TV

Martin Offiah’s length-of-the-field try, Robbie Paul’s heroic Lance Todd Trophy performance against eventual winners St Helens in 1996 and the infamous last-minute missed conversion from the distraught Wakefield number 10 Don Fox, all memories of the most prestigious showpiece cup final in the world. 

Despite the romance, euphoria and heartbreak that the 121-year-old cup embraces, the Rugby League Challenge Cup is in danger of being axed from free-to-air TV. 

Supporters Direct have given their backing to ensure the Carnegie Challenge Cup remains on the list of free-to-air events following a recent report. 

The publication of the Davies Report has recommended that the competition be removed due to a lack of “national resonance.” 

Laura Harrison, Rugby League Development Officer for Supporters Direct, said, “To remove it from the list could see it being removed from free-to-air TV completely which would be disastrous for the profile of the game. This is something I feel extremely strongly about individually but also something that the rugby league supporters’ trusts is keen to act upon.” 

Talks are well underway to decide on the future of televised Challenge Cup Rugby League and a decision is expected to be made in the next 12-weeks by the Secretary of State. 

Synonymous with the cup for many a year, the BBC has broadcast some magical moments for arm chair fans around the world. St Helens South African flyer, Tom Van Vollenhoven went down in the history books with an explosive 90-metre try. Henderson Gill’s athletic score for Wigan in the 1985 cup final and Wigan loose forward, Ellery Hanley’s finesse to a well crafted Wigan move against Halifax in 1988, are also undoubtedly up their with the very best tries to ever grace our screens. 

And what about the greatest teams to defy the pundits with the unthinkable and leave the capital with silverware. John Kear’s all conquering Sheffield Eagles against Wigan in 1998 or perhaps Hull FC’s victory against league champions, Leeds Rhinos at the Millennium Stadium in 2000, are the first to spring to mind.

Action in the gantry was just as exciting as the match itself. Commentator’s, Ray French and Yorkshire born, Eddie Waring’s enthusiasm for the game was ever present. The purist of rugby league stalwarts will remember the moment when Eddie Waring commented on Don Fox’s missed conversion to win the cup for Wakefield in the last minute as he exclaimed: “He’s missed it…the poor lad!”  

The fight to keep televised Challenge Cup Rugby is not the only campaign in full swing. Chorley MP, Lindsay Hoyle is leading a campaign to build a statue of a rugby league legend outside Wembley Stadium in recognition of the final being held at the venue for more than 80 years. Of course the choice would be a difficult one indeed. Today the tag legend is lavished frequently on sportsmen and women. But names such as Wigan wing wizard, Billy Boston, Widnes and Saints number 13, Vince Karalius, former Great Britain and Barrow captain, Willie Horne and goal-kicking full-back, Jim Sullivan surly justify that status. Even more recently, Sean Edwards, Ellery Hanley and Keiron Cunningham are all contenders.

What is your view of Challenge Cup Rugby being taken off free-to-air TV? 

And which rugby league legend would you like to see outside Wembley Stadium?

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