Super League look for new Grand Final venue, World Club Challenge unlikely to happen

A working party has been set up to secure a new Grand Final venue as Super League prepares to break with tradition.

The Super League title decider has been held at Old Trafford every year since the inaugural Grand Final of 1998 but the coronavirus pandemic has forced organisers into a rethink.

The Rugby Football League stuck with Wembley for last Saturday’s Challenge Cup final after reaching what it described as a “good deal” with the national stadium but it is thought there are too many difficulties to enable Super League to proceed with Old Trafford on Saturday, November 28.

With the game almost certain to be played behind closed doors, cost is an obvious factor and, although Manchester United are away that day, the Champions League draw has caused complications.

European ties are scheduled for Wednesdays either side of the Grand Final and groundstaff say they need a week to properly prepare the stadium.

No official announcement has been made but a Super League spokesman confirmed to PA: “We are working through the different options.”

With less than six weeks to go to the final, the matter has become a priority for Super League.

A revamped Headingley, which has hosted a series of league double-headers behind closed doors since the resumption of the season on August 2, would be an obvious choice but not if Challenge Cup winners Leeds reach the final.

The working party are thought to be focusing on a northern football ground and the John Smith’s Stadium would be a natural candidate but Huddersfield Town are due to host Middlesbrough that afternoon.

PA understands that a change of day or a new kick-off time have not been ruled out but broadcasters Sky are likely to have a major say before a final decision is made.

Sky will also be involved in discussions over the 2021 World Club Challenge, which is unlikely to take place in the current situation.

The winners of Sunday’s NRL Grand Final between Melbourne and Penrith would normally play the Super League champions in February.

Meanwhile, two of the leading title contenders will effectively secure play-off places this week.

With growing doubt over whether a full fixture list can be completed before the end of the regular season, the RFL decided places will be determined by percentage wins rather than the number of points gained but teams need to play a minimum of 15 matches to qualify for the semi-finals.

Third-placed Warrington reached the target last Tuesday and leaders St Helens and second-placed Wigan can do likewise on Friday when they play Leeds and Salford respectively.

Leeds, currently in fifth place, are still two games away from qualification and fourth-placed Catalans Dragons have three fixtures to squeeze in before they can breathe a little easier.

Of course, teams still have to finish in the top four to secure play-off spots.

If teams have the same win percentage, positions will decided by points percentage and in the unlikely event they are identical, it will come down to the toss of a coin.

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  1. Why not Wembley or Mount Pleasant? As it’s going to be played behind closed doors why not onside right Swinton or Oldhams ground?

  2. Why do Old Trafford groundstaff need a week after a game to prepare the stadium? With no spectators it’s only the pitch that needs to be worked on. There’s RL clubs sharing with football clubs’ women’s and under 21 teams and sometimes having two matches played within 24 hours.

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