Roaming role for final

The Rugby League is reacting cautiously to the suggestion, following the success of the Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield, that the showpiece event should be taken on the road permanently.

With Wembley out of action until at least 2003, next year's final is already contracted to Twickenham, with negotiations well advanced to stage it at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff the following year.

Some are calling for it to go back to Edinburgh, or even cross the Irish Sea to Dublin, after that. The chairman of the RFL, Sir Rodney Walker, has called for feedback from supporters of the game, while Peter Deakin, the chief executive of Warrington, is arguing for a rotation of venues. "I see no reason why the final shouldn't go to Wembley, Twickenham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin in turn," he said.

Part of the theory is that cities and stadia will bid against each other for the privilege of staging the game, after duly noting that the final in Edinburgh was worth an estimated £10 million to the local economy.

That could help the game get over its potential problem when the tightening laws on tobacco sponsorship force Silk Cut to end their backing after next year.

"It's a matter for the League's board of directors to discuss on 17 May," said the RFL's spokesman, John Huxley. "We are interested in feedback from all quarters, because it is a controversial subject."

The League is wary of suggestions that it should cut its historic ties with Wembley, despite being impressed by the welcome at Murrayfield and by the efforts made by the Scottish Rugby Union to ensure the game was played. "The Rugby League is a member of the English National Stadium consortium and we are not talking about leaving Wembley," Huxley said.

The players who missed the Bradford Bulls' victory over Leeds at Murrayfield are likely to be involved as they return to Super League action at Hull tonight. Hudson Smith, Lee Radford, Justin Brooker and Paul Deacon are all earmarked to play, along with Neil Harmon, who has not figured in the first team this season.

The League's director of referees, Greg McCallum, has told match officials to use the video replay facility more sparingly. McCallum has listened to criticism about referees leaning too heavily on the video referee and, in particular, going back several tackles to find reasons to disallow tries.

"I have asked the referees to utilise existing decision-making aids more often," said McCallum, citing the touch judges and in-stand coaches as sources of help.

Comments