Rugby league’s showpiece Wembley event, the Challenge Cup final, will not be played on July 18 at Wembley this year, the Rugby Football League (RFL) have confirmed.
The RFL confirmed the decision in a press release on Tuesday, May 19.
The governing body is optimistic that the final can be played at some stage later this year, however.
The statement also confirmed that the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final, contested by teams outside of Super League with the final played on the same day at Wembley as the Challenge Cup final, will also be postponed.
The statement reads: “The RFL today confirm the postponement of the Coral Challenge Cup Final and AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final, which had been scheduled for July 18 at Wembley Stadium connected by EE.
“The intention remains for the finals to be played later in the year – contingent on the public health situation and Government advice.”
Cup suspended at sixth-round stage
The Challenge Cup had reached the sixth round stage when all rugby league action was suspended in March. The 1895 Cup had yet to commence at that stage of the season.
A triple-header of games consisting of the Coral Challenge Cup Semi Finals and Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final had been scheduled for University of Bolton Stadium on June 6.
Ticket holders for the event had already been informed that the games were to be postponed ahead of the confirmation regarding the day at Wembley.
The Challenge Cup sixth round ties had been set to be played on the weekend of April 4-5. The quarter-finals were set for May 9-10, with the semis set for June 6.
The subsequent postponement could lead to the competition being re-formatted and redrawn.
There are 16 teams remaining in the Challenge Cup, with five of those coming from outside Super League.
With the Championship and League One looking unlikely to resume, how those teams would prepare for their remaining Cup ties is something of a conundrum.
Challenge Cup final could still be played at an empty Wembley
The BBC reports that the RFL are in talks with Wembley Stadium about an alternative date for the Cup final.
A switch to another venue is possible, with the game likely to have to be played behind closed doors.
The RFL is believed to favour a Wembley final in order to retain some sense of occasion for the event.
This year’s final was going to be the first time that rugby league’s iconic day out in the capital was to be played in July.
Rugby league’s oldest knock-out competition began life in 1897, just two years after rugby’s Great split and the foundation of the Northern Union, which subsequently became the Rugby Football League.
Since then, there have only been five years when the competition did not run.
During World War One it was placed on hiatus for four years, something which happened again in World War Two.