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Catalans Dragons Challenge Cup

Catalans ask RFL to rethink

After seeing Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse withdraw from this year’s Challenge Cup after not adhering to the RFL’s request for a bond for their entry, 2018 winners Catalans Dragons have urged the governing body to rethink their demand for £500,000 in order for the French club to defend their title.

While Catalans have stopped short of threatening a boycott of the competition, chairman Bernard Guasch has explained that is would be irresponsible for the club to pay the bond in a letter to the organisation. “The club has been officially advised in December that a £500,000 deposit will be asked by the RFL to play in the Challenge Cup in 2019,” he wrote to the RFL. “We, as a club, want to ­participate in this prestigious competition and defend our title, but it would be irresponsible to accept this decision. Thus, we have asked the RFL to reconsider its demand and we are now waiting for a decision,” he added.

After the Dragons reached – and won – August’s final, the RFL reported £800,000 less in projected income, leading to the governing body’s requests to the overseas clubs of financial guarantees to safeguard against future losses from an event which is usually a valuable money earner. Due to Toronto, Toulouse and Catalans not being full members of the RFL, there is no automatic right to enter the Challenge Cup but it would be embarrassing for the organisation if the Dragons weren’t present in 2019 to defend their title.

However, they are keen to see Catalans in the competition this year and further information will no doubt be forthcoming in the not-too-distant future.

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opinion

Opinion: The RFL should hang their heads in shame after Challenge Cup debacle

After reports emerged – and were later confirmed – that the Rugby Football League had demanded a financial guarantee from the top three non-UK based clubs in their league structure for them to participate in next year’s Challenge Cup.

The governing body requested a bond of around £750,000 from the clubs to enter the competition in order to cover any potential losses their appearance in the final could lead to. It is believed that Catalans – who are entering and aiming to retain the trophy – had to pay a smaller one with around half a million pounds rumoured to be their fee. Nevertheless, both Toronto and Toulouse from the Betfred Championship have refused to pay and, as a result, will not take part in the competition.

This calls into question the RFL’s appetite to successfully and effectively market the event, instead believing that the two finalists should bring tens of thousands of fans with them. However, it should imperative that the game’s governing body promote the showpiece occasion as a celebration of rugby league – much like the FA do with the FA Cup Final. In the past, tens of thousands of fans piled into the capital for the final regardless of their team – it was rugby league’s big day out. Now, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

As a result, the 2018 final was hit by the lowest post-war attendance as Catalans prevailed over Warrington Wolves. That day, thousands of fans – indeed seemingly all neutrals in the ground – were Dragons for a day. It is a rare thing that the French team bring to the sport – that they draw neutrals towards them simply because of their nationality. Their victory in the final earned them the attention of the nation’s media and, with it, a now-confirmed match held at FC Barcelona’s world-famous Camp Nou stadium.

Just think what, long term, Toronto could bring to the sport. In a huge country and continent which has been hitherto untouched by professional rugby league, their attraction could be huge and winning one of the biggest competitions in the sport would only benefit that. The Canadian team are one of the most marketable teams in the sport what with their status as the only pro North American team and their ability to pay big money to attract top players. It seems, however, that the RFL have turned down this long-term possibility in order to ensure immediate financial guarantees that their showpiece event will not produce losses.

That, however, could come back to bite the RFL on the backside – I hope that this is a one-time mistake.

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Betfred Championship Betfred League One Challenge Cup

Challenge Cup final to move and a new competition for 2019

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The Rugby Football League (RFL) have today announced that the Challenge Cup final will move from August to July as of 2020 and that, for 2019, a new domestic competition for teams outside Super League will commence.

The 1895 Cup will comprise of all teams outside of the top flight and will give those teams in the Betfred Championship and League One a chance of playing at Wembley, given that the final of the competition will take place as part of the build up to the Challenge Cup final. It will give those teams outside of Super League a more realistic chance of playing in a showpiece final than they have in the Challenge Cup and will no doubt excite players and fans of the clubs involved. “This innovation makes that dream of Wembley much more realistic and achievable,” Ralph Rimmer, the RFL’s CEO, told the media following the announcement. “It’s a recognition that the game has changed since the onset of full-time professionalism in the Super League era, meaning that for a good number of the Championship and League One clubs who have won the Challenge Cup in the past, reaching Wembley currently seems a distant dream,” he added.

The event will culminate it’s first outing on August Bank Holiday weekend next year but, as of 2020, it will be moved forward as the Challenge Cup final moves from it’s now customary slot at the end of August to mid-July with Saturday 18th July being confirmed as the date for the 2020 Challenge Cup Final. Since being moved in the mid-noughties to towards the end of the season, the Bank Holiday weekend has often proved unpopular with fans who experience difficulties getting to London due to railway and road maintenence often being undertaken at such a time. That has led to attendances dropping in recent years and, while the presence of Catalans Dragons in this year’s final no doubt hindered it, a seventy-plus year low of 50,672 has clearly triggered the decision in the RFL’s mind.

The organisation has also extended it’s deal with Wembley Stadium to host the Challenge Cup final at the national stadium, something Rimmer was delighted about. “This is a significant and exciting day for the Challenge Cup, and the game’s relationship with Wembley Stadium,” he outlined. “Next year we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the first Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 1929. Rugby League is proud of the length and strength of that association. We are therefore delighted to confirm the extension of that relationship until 2027,” Rimmer added.

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Quiz

QUIZ: SL and Challenge Cup 1998-2018

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So, how much can you remember about award winning teams and players from 1998 to 2018?

The latest quiz from Get ’em Onside gives you the opportunity to test your knowledge of Super League and the Challenge Cup over the last two decades.

Follow THIS LINK to have a go!