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.
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