The Rugby Football League is preparing for a crowd of up to 45,000 for the Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
The showdown between St Helens and Castleford on Saturday, July 17, has been included among the pilots for the Government’s Events Research Programme and so will be exempt from the current Covid-19 restrictions.
The 2020 final between Leeds and Salford was played behind closed doors and just 4,000 fans watched this year’s semi-finals but the national stadium is set to be 50 per cent full.
That is likely to mean between 40,00 and 45,000 fans will be able to watch this year’s showpiece occasion and the final of the 1895 Cup between Featherstone and York which will precede it.
Mark Foster, the RFL’s chief commercial officer, said: “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.
“We fully expect that a form of Covid Certification will be required for all who attend on the day.
“This will consist of either having had both doses of the vaccine at least 14 days before the event or proof of a negative Lateral Flow Test, which can be taken at home or at a recognised centre free of charge, within 48 hours of the event.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone said: “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.
“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 RFL suspended ticket sales pending the outcomes of the talks but now expect them to start up again, initially to club members and season-ticket holders on Tuesday morning and on general sale from Friday.