Cup final switches in £9m BBC deal

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The Independent Online

An increase of 15 per cent in rugby league's overall revenue from television has been disclosed following the announcement yesterday of a deal with the BBC worth almost £9m.

The four-year deal involves moving the Challenge Cup final to late August from its traditional date in spring and also involves national terrestrial coverage of Super League games for the first time.

The change of dates for the final of the game's oldest competition means that it will definitely return to Wembley in 2006, even if the new stadium opens with a major football occasion. The BBC and the League believe the change will revitalise the cup.

"The Challenge Cup is a major sporting event in the UK and around the world, but it had lost its place as an end of season finale and was struggling for attention,'' said Pat Younge, the BBC's head of programming. "Moving it will help restore its prestige.''

The executive chairman of the Rugby League, Richard Lewis, said the corporation would throw extra promotional effort behind the competition. The League is pleased with itself over the agreement, which means, in combination with the new contract with Sky, that the game's overall earnings from television have gone up in a falling market.

Gary Hetherington, the chief executive of Leeds, who play Workington Town in the Cup this weekend, has called for a Super League team in Cumbria. "It is the missing piece in the jigsaw,'' he said yesterday.

Hull KR have been fined £3,000 - £2,000 of it suspended - for two incidences of crowd trouble last season.