Challenge Cup issues reveal a struggling sport desperately in need of direction

05 January 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson

French newspaper L’Independent has revealed this week that Challenge Cup holders Catalans Dragons are considering boycotting this year’s tournament.

The reasons are that they would have to fork out a €550,000 deposit, the same as Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique, in case they had the temerity to reach the final.

The thinking is that attendances are surely to be lower if these overseas teams reach the final.

That such thinking exists is a savage indictment on the people in charge of rugby league in the UK.

They are basically forcing overseas teams to pay for their own lack of competence when it comes to marketing the game.

It should have been easy to market the Catalans Dragons playing in a Challenge Cup final.

People would have had the chance to see history being made, with the Dragons becoming the first overseas team ever to win the Challenge Cup.

Tickets could have been sold on the back of it being a chance to see an iconic event.

It’s also the showpiece event of the sport, or certainly used to be. It shouldn’t matter who’s playing in the final, people should want to go.

They used to back in the past, when bus trips would flow out of northern towns to Wembley regardless of which teams were actually in the final.

If you can’t promote your showpiece event, then you aren’t fit to run the sport. It’s as simple as that.

What would the RFL do if Batley fluked a run to the final? Or Sheffield Eagles? Do they have to pay a deposit? If not, why not?

To then ask overseas teams for money to compensate for your own incompetence is craven, immoral and weak. It shames the RFL.

If we ever wanted a sign that rugby league is in serious trouble in the UK, this is it.

When you’re asking professional teams to pay to enter flagship competitions then you don’t deserve to succeed as a sport.

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