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Worrying trend in Challenge Cup Final attendances

Leigh Leopards and Hull KR met in the first Challenge Cup Final without Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves and St Helens since 1986.

Immediately after the semi-final wins over St Helens and Wigan respectively there was a debate about whether this would be good or bad for the attendance of the final.

However, there was certainly a suggestion that the attendance would be high with Leeds and St Helens fans heading down to watch the women’s final and a rare chance for Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs fans to head down to Wembley to see their side at the national stadium in a big game as they met in the 1895 Cup Final.

There was a suggestion that the attendance would easily surpass 60,000 and be knocking on the door of 65,000.

But an accident on the M1 meant 20,000 ticket holders were late which meant the attendance never surpassed 58,213.

But how does this compare to the attendances of previous years in the 21st Century.

There have been four finals over 80,000 in the 21st Century. The first two at the New Wembley, the 2010 meeting between Leeds and Warrington which is the highest attendance of a final since 2000.

The last time involved Hull KR in 2015 against Leeds Rhinos. From 2003 to 2016 every final surpassed 70,000.

Since then there hasn’t been a final to surpass 70,000 in a worrying trend for attendances at the Challenge Cup Final.

Perhaps this is why IMG have elected to move the final to June 8th next year.

Rhodri Jones, the Managing Director of Rugby League Commercial, said:

“We are pleased to be able to confirm that Betfred Challenge Cup Finals Day will be played at Wembley Stadium in each of the next two years and will be returning to an earlier position in the season in June.

“This fits with the Reimagining of Rugby League through the sport’s long-term partnership with IMG, as we work towards a restructured calendar, and also maintain the double header of Men’s and Women’s Challenge Cup Finals given the growth potential of the Women’s and Girls’ game.

“This will be an historic weekend for the sport’s longest-established showpiece, as for the first time the athletes of Women’s Rugby League take their rightful place on the Wembley stage alongside the men – with both Finals given a national platform on BBC Sport.

“With a fresh feel to the Men’s Final between two teams who have waited a long time since their single Wembley Challenge Cup wins in 1971 and 1980, and two new finalists in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup, there is a real mood of positivity going into the weekend, as Rugby League plays its part in the centenary celebrations for Wembley Stadium.”

Paul Smyth, Head of Operations at Wembley Stadium, added:

“We are delighted to host Rugby League’s Challenge Cup Finals Day here at Wembley Stadium for another two years.

“Challenge Cup Final day is always one of the great days in the calendar and we are proud to have hosted it here at Wembley since 1929. We look forward to putting on more world-class finals over the next few years.”

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