Super League’s biggest games could head to neutral venues to boost rugby league profile

Aaron Bower
A general view of play during the Betfred Challenge Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. RFL.

Challenge Cup Final 2022 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Archive/PA Images.

Some of Super League’s biggest domestic games could be taken on the road to bigger venues in the years to come as part of the wider plan to take the competition to new markets and attract new supporters into rugby league, Love Rugby League has been told.

Super League already operates a full round of fixtures in a major stadium each year with Magic Weekend, but the future of that concept is uncertain beyond this year’s edition, which will take place at Elland Road in the summer. However, more on the road fixtures appear likely with or without Magic, after Rugby League Commercial boss Rhodri Jones admitted they would be interested in hosting big games in big venues as part of the ‘next iteration’ of the competition’s growth.

Jones and senior IMG official Matt Dwyer – who recently conducted a series of in-depth interview with Love Rugby League in the run-up to the new Super League season – will head to Las Vegas to watch the NRL’s blockbuster season-opening event in a bid to not only strengthen relations with their counterparts in Australia, but to gain more ideas about potential on-the-road fixtures here.

And he admitted that while it would need to be done ‘sensibly’, the prospect of some of Super League’s biggest fixtures on the calendar being relocated out of regular stadia and into world-class facilities elsewhere is something that is high on the agenda of both RL Commercial and IMG.

He said: “It’s a real challenge for Wigan to consider moving the World Club Challenge away from the DW Stadium, for example.
Wigan are paying for Penrith to come over, they’ve got to cover that cost and then earn some money from the game – that’s part of the benefit of being the champions.

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“They could go to Old Trafford – but it’s a six-figure hire fee. That’s where we need to take the next iteration of Super League though, pushing our boundaries and taking some of our better games out of home advantage stadiums and taking them on the road.

“But we’d have to do that quite sensibly. In the recommendations there was talk of a new event and that’s not gone away, it just wasn’t the right time last year to take it any further with the uncertainty on broadcast deal being so late. That might be the start of it now, with an aspiration to take Wigan-Saints or a Hull derby out of those home venues and somewhere.”

Jones told Love Rugby League that talks took place too late to secure a World Club Challenge between Penrith and Wigan in Vegas this year – but refused to rule out the prospect of the event going there in the future.

“Matt and I are going to Vegas at the end of the month to see it and grow that relationship with the NRL,” he said. “We were eight or ten weeks too late this year in terms of having a valid conversation surrounding Las Vegas and the World Club Challenge: but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen going forward.

“There’s a genuine belief that if Wigan had gone to Vegas for the World Club, there’d be 5,000 fans going to help contribute to it. We’re going to go and build those relationship with the NRL; Matt has met Peter V’Landys so there’s a concerted effort to bring the two hemispheres together.”

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