The Rugby Football League and UK bookmaker Coral have come together as part of a “historic commercial partnership” that will see the bookmaker sponsoring both the men’s and women’s Challenge Cups for the first time.
The two-year deal will bring the two competitions together on 27 July, when the Coral women’s Challenge Cup Final shares the stage with the men’s semi-finals in a triple header at the University of Bolton Stadium.
The men’s Coral Challenge Cup Final will then follow at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, August 24, which fans will be able to watch live on the BBC Sport online platform
“This is a really significant day both for the Challenge Cup, and for women’s Rugby League,” said Ralph Rimmer, the RFL chief executive.
“The men’s Challenge Cup is one of the iconic competitions and trophies of British sport, with more than 120 years of history, and the famous Wembley final televised live to the nation and the world by the BBC.
“The Women’s Challenge Cup may not have that history, but Coral’s enthusiasm for it to be part of a joint sponsorship deal confirms our determination that it is set for a really exciting future.
“With Coral’s name now linked to both the men’s and women’s Challenge Cups, it’s equally exciting to be able to extend the double header for the men’s semi -finals that proved such a big hit last year, and now incorporate the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup Final.
“We are confident that thousands of the supporters of the teams who reach the semi-finals of the men’s Coral Challenge Cup will also take the opportunity to watch the outstanding spectacle provided by our best women’s teams – and that will ensure their skills and athleticism are seen by the record audience they deserve.”
Leeds Rhinos are set to defend the women’s Challenge Cup title, having defeated Castleford Tigers in a classic final at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium last summer.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Wembley winners Catalans Dragons will compete for the men’s title, after the team confirmed its attendance following uncertainty over participation. They will enter the competition at the sixth round stage in May, having finished in the top eight of the Super League in 2018.
Adrian Osman, the Head of Sponsorship and Events at Coral, praised the new sponsorship deal: “The Rugby League Challenge Cup and the final at Wembley are flagship events in British sport, and we are delighted that Coral’s name will now be associated with them in this significant deal.
“In addition, the opportunity to get involved with women’s sport and the development of women’s Rugby League as the first title sponsors of the Women’s Challenge Cup is hugely exciting for us – and combining the final with the semi-finals of the Coral Challenge Cup should produce another great event.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the two competitions unfold through the spring and summer.”
The Road to Wembley begins this weekend, with 52 community clubs competing in the opening round featuring Sunday’s meeting on the Cumbrian coast between the oldest amateur club in the country, Millom, and the Challenge Cup newcomers Red Star Belgrade.
Insider Insight: Coral should have no issue converting this sponsorship into increased brand exposure. Especially given that the whole tournament will be streamed on the BBC’s online platforms. The new deal is a leap in the right direction for sponsorship of women’s sport, and hopefully other sponsorship deals will follow suit.