Challenge Cup set for radical new format in 2024

In the first Challenge Cup Final without Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, Leigh Leopards defeated Hull KR to pick up their first Challenge Cup Final since 1971.

However, nothing in the sport appears to be safe with IMG looking to revamp the game and have made some pretty bold move already with the end of traditional promotion and relegation and a focus on a grading system which factors in off field elements such as stadium and facilities.

But their focus is not just on Super League. They also have a keen eye on the Challenge Cup even considering cancelling the Magic Weekend to make the Cup Final a bigger event.

They have already moved the date forward and they are also considering a radical new format. Changing the Challenge Cup, a tournament which has been around since 1897 would be a major move and according to Eddie Hemmings the use of Champions League like group stages are coming.

He confirmed this on the Eddie and Stevo podcast: “There’s something else up for the revamp of the Challenge Cup. We know the finals are going to be played next June. That’s a switch from August, and for the first time since 1896 they are proposing a group stage format involving 24 teams, followed by a knockout stage and then the final.

“Twelve Super League clubs will enter the group stages, they’ll be joined by twelve other teams, those twelve decided by a traditional knockout format in the early rounds involving Championship clubs, League 1 clubs and the Community Game.

“The group stages will involve eight groups of three, playing one at home, one away. Teams will be seeded to ensure an even split. The eight group winners will then enter the quarterfinals and progress eventually to the final for two of them.

“A round-robin format was discussed but deemed to be not that popular with the clubs or the fans. Why on earth are they trying to mess about with the oldest cup competition in the world?”

Stevo added: “I agree, why? Why on earth? Why on this planet are they even considering it? Keep it as it is, I do agree with taking it back earlier in the season. Otherwise, just leave it alone. If it’s not broke, why mend it?”

Eddie also had his say on the new TV deal: “Sky have got it for three more years. Now this is the big thing, every game is going to be covered by the TV cameras, full details of when and how will follow. The negotiations are underway.

“Channel 4’s involvement is yet to be announced. But they have been offered more games. Will they pay this time? Or will everything go on the Sky platform? Let’s wait and see. But all games will be televised.

“From our point of view, being I suppose loyal Sky people, I’m delighted that Sky have got it for the next three years. I know all the fans aren’t, there’s letters in all the papers, ‘get shut of Sky’.

“They don’t realise that Sky paid money. They pay money to transmit these games. But I am personally delighted that Sky have got the deal and got it over the line.”