The Rugby Football League (RFL) on Thursday announced a one-year contract with Betfred following the expiry of a two-year deal with Coral at the end of 2020.
The announcement comes at a time when the Government, concerned over the effects of gambling on youngsters, is threatening to clamp down on sports sponsorship by betting companies.
Betfred has been sponsoring Super League since 2017 – the current agreement is due to run out at the end of the 2021 season – and also backs the Women’s Super League.
The new RFL deal also includes sponsorship of the women’s Challenge Cup and the wheelchair Challenge Cup. All three trophies are currently held by Leeds Rhinos.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “We are excited to announce an extension of rugby league’s partnership with Betfred to include the men’s, women’s and wheelchair Challenge Cups in 2021.
“The Challenge Cup is rugby league’s oldest knockout competition and even in the challenging circumstances of 2020, we were reminded of its enduring appeal with a national television audience of 1.6 million watching Leeds Rhinos beat Salford Red Devils in the first – and hopefully last – final played behind closed doors.
“The women’s and wheelchair competitions are more recent additions to the rugby league landscape but already they have a history of memorable moments, and after the frustrations of 2020 I know all our players and clubs will be relishing the prospect of returning in 2021.
“We are convinced that sport will play a key role in the regional and national recovery from Covid through 2021, and determined that rugby league and the three Betfred Challenge Cups will be a big part of that story.”
— BETFRED (@Betfred) February 4, 2021
The Betfred Challenge Cup is set to kick off the 2021 season on the weekend of March 21, with eight ties involving clubs from the Championship and League 1, before the 12 Super League clubs enter at the third-round stage on the weekend of April 11.
The draw for the first and second rounds will be held next Thursday.
Betfred boss Fred Done said: “I am delighted to be able to announce further support for the sport of Rugby League in what are incredibly difficult times.
“The Challenge Cup obviously has a rich heritage and I was also very keen to include both the women’s Challenge Cup and the wheelchair Challenge Cup in what is such an important year for the whole sport, culminating with the World Cup in October/November.”