Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wembley of the North?

The England rugby league captain Jamie Peacock spoke recently about how the game needs its own national stadium like the FA's Wembley and RFU's Twickenham if it is to expand.

This may appear an attractive idea but it's a non-starter for a number of reasons:

1. if a national rugby league stadium were built, it would presumably stage the Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final now played at Wembley and Old Trafford respectively.  Unless its capacity was 80-90,000, it would mean a sharp drop in the number of tickets available for those matches.

2. a national rugby league stadium would also presumably be built in the North.  Leaving aside the question of whether Lancashire or Yorkshire would be chosen as the site, it would end the eighty-odd year tradition of rugby league fans having a day out in London for the Challenge Cup final.

3. The RFL makes big profits from staging Challenge Cup finals at Wembley.  The vote to move the 1929 final to Wembley may have been close - 13-10 - but has not really been an issue since (despite the efforts of Stan Chadwick, Huddersfield fan, ILP member and the editor of Rugby League Review who fought for the final to return to the North into the 1960's).  When it has been played elsewhere - in 1932 at Central Park in Wigan when there was a football international at Wembley or even the 1954 replay at Odsal Stadium in Bradford that attracted at least 102,000 fans - the gate receipts have been far lower.

4. unless they could attract a big commercial sponsor, I doubt the RFL could raise the money to fund such a project.

I have taken stats and other info here from the superb Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain by Tony Collins.

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