The 2020 Coral Challenge Cup final at Wembley next month will be played behind closed doors, the Rugby Football League has confirmed.
The news had been anticipated following the Government’s tightening of restrictions due to a worsening of the coronavirus pandemic, and the cancellation of pilot crowds for Super League fixtures.
Plans for a first-ever July final in 2020 were scuppered by Covid-19 and the absence of a crowd for the rescheduled date of Saturday, October 17 will cost the RFL between £1million and £2m.
Coming on top of a projected loss of around £4m through the cancellation of the Ashes Series which was due to take place in October and November, it is another major financial blow for rugby league.
However, the RFL has already started to look ahead by announcing the date for next year’s final at Wembley and says fans who have bought tickets for 2020 can either claim a full refund or transfer them to Saturday, July 17, 2021.
Tickets will go on general sale in November.
RFL chief commercial officer Mark Foster said: “In what has been such a difficult year in so many ways, the confirmation that the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup final will be played behind closed doors is a huge disappointment after we had done everything in our power and received such committed support from everyone involved at Wembley in our efforts to allow some fans into the stadium.
“We hope the announcement of a firm date for the Challenge Cup final next summer will provide some compensation for rugby league supporters, with the hope of a return to something like normality and brighter times ahead.
“All the reasons we were looking forward to a first Challenge Cup final in July in 2020 will hopefully still apply in 2021.”
The sixth round was re-drawn following the withdrawal of Toronto and the Championship and League 1 teams and next year’s competition is facing further disruption, with the participation of amateur clubs in some doubt.
Foster added: “Given the impact of the latest announcements from Government regarding social distancing on both the professional and the community game, it is almost certain that there will be implications for the structure of next year’s Challenge Cup.
“Further announcements on that will be made whenever decisions have been made.”
Saturday’s semi-finals at the Totally Wicked Stadium in St Helens are also being played behind closed doors.
Leeds play Wigan in the first game at 2.30pm and that will be followed by the meeting of holders Warrington and Salford at 5pm.
Both semi-finals and the final will be shown live by the BBC.