Image: PA Images

The Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on 17 July will be included as one of a small number of events participating in the third phase of the Events Research Programme (ERP).

Following extensive discussions with DCMS, Public Health authorities, Brent Council and Wembley Stadium, the Rugby Football League (RFL), it was confirmed that the double header of the Challenge Cup final and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final could admit up to 45,000 fans under the arches.

The Challenge Cup final between St Helens and Castleford Tigers, and the 1895 Cup final between Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights will be exempt from coronavirus restrictions, with Wembley set to be 50% full.

“Our phenomenal vaccine rollout and increasing uptake of the NHS App means the Challenge Cup final and the 1895 Cup final will now take place in front of tens of thousands of fans at Wembley Stadium, which is a very positive sign ahead of the Rugby League World Cup later this year,” stated Sports Minister, Nigel Huddlestone.

“These highlights of the Rugby League calendar will be an important part of the Events Research Programme, helping to explore how we can safely return fans to sporting and cultural venues at ever greater numbers.”

The Challenge Cup final, which was staged behind closed doors last year between Leeds  Rhinos and Salford Red Devils, was touted as one of the 20 events under consideration for ERP status, after the UK government confirmed that the national stadium would operate at 50% capacity for the final Euro 2020 fixtures.

Mark Foster, the RFL’s Chief Commercial Officer, added “We are still working through the full details and have further work to do in the next 24 hours with the Events Research Programme as well as Wembley Stadium and Brent Council but the indications are that we will be working to a 50% capacity which is around 40-45,000.

“This is fantastic news for the sport as a whole, and especially for the tens of thousands of supporters of Castleford Tigers, St Helens, Featherstone Rovers and York City Knights who will now be able to attend Rugby League Challenge Cup Final day – one of the country’s traditional sporting highlights.

“We would like to place on record our thanks to all at DCMS, Public Health England, Wembley Stadium and Brent Council who have helped to get us to this stage.”

Discussions with the four competing clubs will continue, with the expectation that tickets will go on sale initially to their members and/or season ticket holders for an exclusive three-day period.

The RFL will also announce further details around conditions of entry, consent required from all fans to opt into the Event Research Programme and NHS Test and Trace requirements early next week.

Meanwhile, it has also been announced that The Open golf major will accommodate up to 32,000 spectators each competition day at this year’s championship, as part of the next phase of the ERP.

R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers, stated: “We are pleased to now be able to proceed with our plans for having a significant attendance at this year’s championship.

“These fans will play a huge role in creating a very special atmosphere as the world’s best players compete for the Claret Jug and we look forward to welcoming them to Royal St George’s.”

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