Apart from last year’s strange, crowdless Grand Final in Hull, every Grand Final has taken place at Old Trafford and who can complain.
It’s one of the finest sports stadiums in the country, has superb character and feels somewhat timeless. It always produces a great atmosphere when the Super League world journeys over to Manchester to stick its teeth into the biggest game of the season and every Grand Final, even when it was still in its infancy, felt like a seismic event.
But is it time to say goodbye to the Theatre of Dreams?
Recently, the RFL made an even bolder decision about the Challenge Cup Final. They chose to abandon Wembley in favour of Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium. The move was met by a mixed reaction with some heartbroken by the end of the Wembley tradition whilst others felt it was a bold move, one that could attract new fans as rugby league takes one of its biggest events to a new stadium and to a new audience.
So, would it be wise to do something similar to the Grand Final? In many ways, I’d argue yes. In fact, I’d take the final somewhere previously untouched by Super League, somewhere outside of the north but also outside of London to really get new eyes on the sport and its biggest game.
Moreover, I feel like it would be a smart move to provide fans in the area a discount to prompt them to watch the final. This could get them hooked on the sport encouraging them to go and watch their local team helping sides outside of the heartlands grow whilst Super League lights up a new venue.
It would be a shame to say goodbye to Old Trafford. It has been a superb venue which has produced many amazing moments and always conjures up a magnificent atmosphere. But, as it sits inside the north like every big team in this country, it offers little in the way of expansion and perhaps that’s something the sport needs to change if it wants to widen the fanbase and support the growth of the sport beyond the Pennines.