By Will Hopper
West Yorkshire rugby league fans will still get their day out at Wembley Stadium if their team makes it to the 2018 Challenge Cup final. However, the venue for the competition’s final is in doubt.
Yesterday, the Football Association (FA) received a bid in the region of £800 million for the purchase of Wembley Stadium. Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham FC and Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL, is the man behind the bid. Khan has stated that he hopes to complete the purchase within the next eight to twelve weeks. The billionaire wants to strengthen the Jaguars position in London as more and more NFL teams are becoming interested in our nation’s capital.
Former Leeds United owner and ex-chairman of Wembley National Stadium Limited, Ken Bates, has been extremely critical of the potential sale.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Bates said: “They have no moral authority to sell it as it doesn’t belong to them. The directors of the FA are just passing through, they are trustees. How dare they even consider selling it. The FA never had a proper home until we got Wembley.”
It is understood that England international football games, the FA Cup final, EFL Trophy final, EFL Playoff finals and rugby league’s 2018 Challenge Cup final will continue to be played at Wembley Stadium.
An unnamed Rugby Football League (RFL) spokesperson said: “The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup has a long association with Wembley Stadium and whoever owns the stadium, we would hope to continue to work closely with them to deliver one of the showpiece sporting events in the British sporting calendar.”
However, when I spoke to the RFL myself, they claimed it was too early to comment on the future of the competition. There seems to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the competition.
With the final scheduled for late August, that would clash with the start of the NFL season. Could the Challenge Cup final be held away from the national stadium? Well, last year the Super League chief executive suggested that the RFL could look to safeguard the event by moving the final away from Wembley. Possible venues include Principality Stadium, Old Trafford and London Stadium.
Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, Huddersfield Giants, Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity are still left in the competition, so West Yorkshire has a huge chance for one or even two of its teams to qualify for the final.