Opinion: Challenge Cup to stay at Tottenham or time to relocate up north? 

Challenge Cup

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosted its first-ever Challenge Cup final on Saturday with a magnificent atmosphere for the 121st final.

The double-header event, with the 1895 Cup also playing at midday, had an official attendance of 51,628.

It was a unique experience for travelling supporters, who got to enjoy something very different to the usual venue of Wembley.

It sparked the most recent debate in rugby league; should the Challenge Cup final be held at Tottenham every year?

Wembley is contracted until 2027 with the RFL, so this piece is more like thinking out loud rather than anything else. 

Challenge Cup to stay at Tottenham?

Speaking on the latest Love Rugby League podcast, out tomorrow featuring Eorl Crabtree, host George Riley and journalist Josh McAllister shared their views on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“It was a fantastic facility,” said McAllister. “Watching the replay on TV, it looked brilliant. It was a brilliant atmosphere.”

Riley added: “It’s an absolutely incredible stadium. I have been to Old Trafford this year more than any major stadium, and going to something like the Tottenham Stadium, this incredible, brand-spanking new stadium, it really shows how dated something like Old Trafford is where there’s been no investment and no work done.

“Tottenham was so impressive. The pitch was absolutely beautiful.”

Time to re-locate?

On the other hand, is it time to relocate the prestigious cup final up north? 

Should the sport expect fans to spend hundreds on a trip down south every year? Is this one reason for falling attendances?

The 2010 Challenge Cup final saw an attendance of 85,217, and failed to fall below 70,000 until the 2017 final.

Since then, finals have recorded attendances of 50,672 and 62,717, with 2020 behind closed doors and 2021 at a limited capacity of 40,000.

Is it time to bring the final up north, allowing fans to save money and perhaps attract more to travel to support their side, or even as a neutral?

With a capacity of 55,000, Etihad Stadium has hosted rugby league before through Magic Weekend. It could be a popular destination, and furthermore likely look a near-sell out on television coverage. It is hard to think of other stadiums on the same level at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium up north, but is the magic of travelling to the capital gradually disappearing? 

It’s a tough question; especially with how good last weekend really was. But are the days of Wembley over, and should the sport try something new once again in 2023? If to remain down south, will the World Cup be a success at Emirates Stadium, which could see Arsenal’s ground become a one-off host? Plenty to think about for the sport ahead of next year’s final.

Where do you think the Challenge Cup should head to in 2023? Leave a comment below. 

Podcast: James Graham on World Cup, Saints farewell and life after league

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17 Comments

  1. I think it’s time to bring it back up north. Its far too expensive now to travel (with only 2 weeks notice) down to London around the time of school holidays. I’ve been to every Wembley cup final since “new Wembley ” was built and year on year I’ve noticed the cost going up and up, from hotels to food and drink.

    • You obviously went the wrong way – it’s easy to get there – tube to seven sisters than the underground overground for 4 minutes to white hart lane – then literally a 2 minute walk to the ground.

  2. I loved everything about my trip to Spurs. Don’t go back to Manchester or Liverpool;we tried them for Magic and it did not work. What’s so difficult about a trip to the capital.

  3. Rugby league is a northern sport and should have the challenge Cup in the north.many fans are seniors and the long trip down south is challenging for many

  4. I think it should stay at Wembley, I think fans like travelling to London for the weekend. If it was held in the north, it would be just like any other match.

  5. It shouldn’t be a “northern”sport!!! Promote it, develop it. Tottenham great stadium, transport not so great (and I live in London)

  6. Back to Wembley for me, its been played there since 1929 and a great weekend for Northerners to attend. As somebody previously said, playing it up North is making it like any other game and nothing special, which is what it is. If you dont want to take it to Wembley take it to the Millennium in Cardiff, I’m sure RL fans who have been there will agree, its probably a bettervenue than Wembley. By the way, what is the planned date for next years final ?

  7. Bring it North please!
    St James Park the obvious choice, it’s Magic!
    Or better still develop Odsal back to glory & it could become a RL epicentre!

  8. Wembley for me – if your team is involved there then it has to be Wembley. It’s part of the experience, we can all go to Manchester any day of the week, there is sense of excitement

  9. Wembley
    I’m sure as a player the dream is to play a cup final at Wembley.
    It’s different (not all for the best) but it’s special, an occasion.
    With Free 2 Air TV becoming more accessible for RL and this years WC games all on the BBC national support will grow. Not the time to devalue RLs flagship cup comp. Build it back to 90000!

  10. Leave it at it’s traditional home at Wembley , stop trying to downsize our sport again , let’s try to promote and grow the sport instead of shrinking it as a solely northern sport. People have a go at the governing body at every opportunity but the worst people for running this sport down are the blinkered flat cap fans and the negative rugby league media .

  11. Tottenham was fun but Wembley is a great venue ! I live in the Northamptonshire heartlands of Rugby Union and have introduced many RU fans to game buy taking them along to this wonderful competition all of whom have enjoyed the experience. The issue is RL needs to advertise this day to the “South” I am still amazed how many people are unaware of this beautiful game. Perhaps the World Cup will change that.

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