Challenge Cup

For other uses, see Challenge Cup (disambiguation).
Challenge Cup
Founded 1896
Region  United Kingdom
Number of teams 88
International cup(s) World Club Series
Most successful club(s) Wigan
(19 wins)
Television broadcasters BBC Sport
Sky Sports
2016 Challenge Cup

The Challenge Cup (also known as the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup due to sponsorship by Ladbrokes) is a knockout rugby league cup competition organised by the Rugby Football League,[1] held annually since 1896, with the exception of 1915–1919 and 1939–1940. It involves amateur, semi-professional and professional clubs.

The final of the Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium, London, is one of the most prestigious matches in world rugby[2] and is broadcast around the world. "Abide with Me", sung before the game, has become a rugby league anthem.

The current holders of the Challenge Cup are Hull who defeated Warrington 12–10 on 27 August 2016 at Wembley Stadium, the very first time they have won at Wembley.

Wigan are the most successful club in the history of the competition, winning the Cup a record 19 times.


The clubs that formed the Northern Union had long been playing in local knock-out cup competitions under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union. However, the rugby union authorities refused to sanction a nationwide tournament, fearing that this would inevitably lead to professionalism. After the schism of 1895, the northern clubs were free to go-ahead, and they instigated the Northern Rugby Football Union Challenge Cup. In 1896 Fattorini's of Bradford were commissioned to manufacture the Challenge Cup at a cost of just £60. Fattorini's also supplied three-guineas winners' medals then valued at thirty shillings (£1.50).

The first competition was held during the 1896–97 season (the second season of the new game), and 56 clubs entered to compete for the trophy. The first final was held at Headingley in Leeds, on 24 April 1897. Batley defeated St Helens 10–3[3] in front of a crowd of 13,492 (see picture). It is interesting to note that the St Helens side did not play in a standardised team jersey.

The competition was later interrupted by the Great War, although it was held in 1915, when the season that had begun before the war was completed. It was then suspended until the end of hostilities. Initially, the final tie was held at one of the larger club grounds in the north, however, noting the excitement in Huddersfield that the town’s football team were playing at Wembley in the FA Cup Final and the increasing difficulty for any of the rugby league grounds to satisfy spectator demand to see the final tie, the rugby league authorities voted 13–10 to move to the recently built Wembley Stadium in London, aiming to emulate the FA Cup's success and to put the game on the national stage.[4]

The first final held at Wembley was in 1926 when Wigan beat Dewsbury 13–2 in front of a crowd of 41,500. At the start of the Second World War, rugby league suspended its season immediately, but the Challenge Cup took a single year’s break before restarting, on a limited basis and with the support of the authorities, as part of keeping up morale. The Challenge Cup finals, which took place in the game’s Northern heartland, got big crowds as the game raised money for prisoners of war and for Lord Beaverbrook’s armaments programme.

The first ever Challenge Cup Final, 1897: Batley(l) vs. St Helens(r)

In 1946, the Lance Todd Trophy was introduced and awarded to the man of the match. The first winner was Billy Stott of Wakefield Trinity the first winner of the trophy on the losing team was Frank Whitcombe of Bradford Northern in 1948. In itself, it is a prestigious trophy presented only at the Challenge Cup Final. The winner is selected by the members of the Rugby League Writers' Association present at the game and the trophy was presented at a celebratory dinner at the Willows, the home of Salford.

1954 saw the Challenge Cup final drawn and the replay set the record for a rugby league match attendance. The match was on 5 May and 102,569 was the official attendance at Odsal Stadium, although it's believed that up to 120,000 spectators were present to see Warrington defeat Halifax 8–4.

Wigan are well known for their successes in the Challenge Cup competition, having won more Challenge Cups than any other club with nineteen Challenge Cup final wins.

Until the 1993–94 season there were very few amateur clubs included in the cup, typically two. For part of the 1980s and the 1992–93 season the cup was solely for professional clubs. The competition was then opened up to large numbers of amateur clubs as part of a deal between the Rugby Football League and British Amateur Rugby League Association over bridging the gap between the professional and amateur leagues.

The move to a summer season for rugby league in 1996 did not see the Challenge Cup moved, and it became instead essentially a pre-season tournament, with the first Summer Cup Final held earlier in the season, on 27 August at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

In 1997, a Challenge Cup Plate took place for teams knocked out in the early rounds of the competition. The final took place at Wembley and was won by Hull Kingston Rovers who beat Hunslet 60–14.

The last cup final before Wembley's redevelopment saw the first appearance of a team from south of Watford, when the London Broncos were beaten by a record margin, 52–16 by Leeds.[2]

The redevelopment of Wembley Stadium led to the Cup Final utilising a variety of venues. The final is one of the biggest rugby league events of the year in Britain, along with the Super League Grand Final. The Challenge Cup final traditionally formed the end to the season, being played in late April or early May.

There was a belief that the Challenge Cup final taking place early in the season had led to a decline in the prestige of the cup,[5] so the timing of the competition was altered in 2005

On 26 August 2006 St Helens scrum-half Sean Long became the first player in the history of the Challenge Cup to collect a third Lance Todd trophy following his man-of-the-match performance in the final against Huddersfield. His other Lance Todd trophy wins came in the 2001 and 2004 Challenge Cup Finals.

From 2009, the television rights to the Challenge Cup were sold to Australia's leading rugby league broadcaster, Channel Nine, as part of a new three-year contract.


The modern Challenge Cup has 8 rounds prior to the final. Teams are seeded, entering at different stages. The precise format has altered slightly from year to year, however the current format is as follows:[6][7]

Qualification for World Club Series

In 2015 it was announced that the winners of the Challenge Cup would qualify to play in the World Club Series. If the team who wins the Challenge Cup also wins the League Leaders Shield then the Grand Final runners up will qualify for the World Club Series. The first team to win the Challenge Cup and qualify for the World Club Series were Leeds Rhinos in 2015 who beat Hull KR 50–0.


Since 1945 the final has been held at Wembley Stadium

During the first round right through to the quarter finals the cup is hosted at the stadium of the team who has been drawn at home. The semi finals are hosted at neutral venues so there is no advantage for the home team. The final is played at Wembley traditionally and was first played there in 1928–29 season. Before the final had been held in Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, Wigan, Salford and Rochdale. The first Challenge Cup final was held at Headingley Stadium in Leeds between Batley Bulldogs and St Helens RLFC in front of a crowd of 13,492. It has been played at many different neutral venues before Wembley became the permanent venue for the final. In the event of a draw in the final a replay will be played at a neutral venue somewhere else.


NRFU Challenge Cup first presented 189697

The Challenge Cup trophy was designed by silversmiths Fattorini & Sons of Bradford in 1897.[4] The trophy stood 36 inches high manufactured of solid silver and stood on a black ebony base approximately 8 inches deep.

Tony Collins, the Rugby Football League's archivist, stated in 2007 that, "Fattorini's weren't given any particular commission, just told to come up with something prestigious".[4] The trophy cost £60.[4] The average wage in 1897 was around £2 per week which suggests an equivalent 2007 price of £16,000, although Collins says, "if you wanted something made of silver and with that level of craftsmanship these days, it would be far more expensive. In terms of its subsequent value, the RFL got a bargain."[4]

The trophy currently presented to the winners after the final is not the original which had to be withdrawn due to its delicate condition.[4] As well as the silver wearing thin, it had lost its fluted top and the players on each of the handles had been damaged.[4] The original Fattorini trophy was last presented at the 2001 Challenge Cup Final to St Helens captain Chris Joynt after his team had beaten Bradford.[8] The original trophy is now stored at the RFL's headquarters at Red Hall and only used for promotional appearances.[4]

The trophy used today was created by Jack Spencer (goldsmith) of Sheffield in 800 man-hours and is an almost exact replica of the Fattorini piece.[4][8] One improvement made with the new version is that the small shields displaying each winning team and captain are now the same size, whereas they had been getting smaller as space ran out on the original.[4] The new trophy's neck has been strengthened.[8] The second trophy was first presented to Wigan, winners of the 2002 Challenge Cup Final.[8]

The winners of the cup in looking after the trophy must "follow a certain code of practice," says Collins.[4] When not in a secure cabinet, the trophy must always be in the presence of someone.[4] When the trophy is taken out overnight, somebody must sleep in the same room and if taken in a car there must be two people in attendance.[4] Collins reveals that, "When it went down to France for some Catalans publicity photos, it even had its own seat on the plane."[4]


Main article: Lance Todd Trophy

The Lance Todd Trophy, named in memory of Lance Todd, is awarded to the man-of-the-match in the Challenge Cup Final.[9] The winner is decided each year by those members of the Rugby League Writers' Association present at the match.[9]

The Trophy was first presented in 1946 to William "Billy" Stott of Wakefield Trinity.[9][10]


The Challenge Cup has been sponsored since 1980, with the sponsor being able to determine the cup's sponsorship name. There have been six sponsors.

Period Sponsor Name
1980–1985 State Express State Express Challenge Cup
1985–2001 Silk Cut Silk Cut Challenge Cup
2002–2003 Kellogg's Nutrigrain Kellogg's Nutrigrain Challenge Cup
2004–2007 Powergen Powergen Challenge Cup
2008–2012 Leeds Met Carnegie Carnegie Challenge Cup
2013–2014 Tetley's Tetley's Challenge Cup
2015–2017 Ladbrokes Ladbrokes Challenge Cup

Challenge Cup Finals

In total, 26 different clubs have won the Challenge Cup and 30 different teams have appeared in the final. Wigan Warriors hold the record for most wins with 19 and have appeared in 30 finals. In 2007, Catalans Dragons became the first non English team to reach the final but lost to St Helens.

Year Winners Score Runner–up
1896–97 Batley 10–3 St Helens
1897–98 Batley 7–0 Bradford
1898–99 Oldham 19–9 Hunslet
1899–1900 Swinton 16–8 Salford
1900–01 Batley 6–0 Warrington
1901–02 Broughton Rangers 25–0 Salford
1902–03 Halifax 7–0 Salford
1903–04 Halifax 8–3 Warrington
1904–05 Warrington 6–0 Hull Kingston Rovers
1905–06 Bradford FC 5–0 Salford
1906–07 Warrington 17–3 Oldham
1907–08 Hunslet 14–0 Hull
1908–09 Wakefield Trinity 17–0 Hull
1909–10 Leeds 7–7 Hull
Replay Leeds 26–12 Hull
1910–11 Broughton Rangers 4–0 Wigan
1911–12 Dewsbury 8–5 Oldham
1912–13 Huddersfield 9–5 Warrington
1913–14 Hull 6–0 Wakefield Trinity
1914–15 Huddersfield 37–3 St Helens
1919–20 Huddersfield 21–10 Wigan
1920–21 Leigh 13–0 Halifax
1921–22 Rochdale Hornets 10–9 Hull
1922–23 Leeds 28–3 Hull
1923–24 Wigan 21–4 Oldham
1924–25 Oldham 16–3 Hull Kingston Rovers
1925–26 Swinton 9–3 Oldham
1926–27 Oldham 26–7 Swinton
1927–28 Swinton 5–3 Warrington
1928–29 Wigan 13–2 Dewsbury
1929–30 Widnes 10–3 St Helens
1930–31 Halifax 22–8 York
1931–32 Leeds 11–8 Swinton
1932–33 Huddersfield 21–17 Warrington
1933–34 Hunslet 11–5 Widnes
1934–35 Castleford 11–8 Huddersfield
1935–36 Leeds 18–2 Warrington
1936–37 Widnes 18–5 Keighley
1937–38 Salford 7–4 Barrow
1938–39 Halifax 20–3 Salford
1940–41 Leeds 19–2 Halifax
1941–42 Leeds 15–10 Halifax
1942–43 Dewsbury 16–9 Leeds
1942–43 Leeds 6–0 Dewsbury
1942–43 Dewsbury 16–15 Leeds
1943–44 Wigan 3–0 Bradford Northern
1943–44 Bradford Northern 8–0 Wigan
1943–44 Bradford Northern 8–3 Wigan
1944–45 Huddersfield 7–4 Bradford Northern 1944–45 Huddersfield 6–5 Bradford Northern
1944–45 Huddersfield 13–9 Bradford Northern
1945–46 Wakefield Trinity 13–12 Wigan
1946–47 Bradford Northern 8–4 Leeds
1947–48 Wigan 8–3 Bradford Northern
1948–49 Bradford Northern 12–0 Halifax
1949–50 Warrington 19–0 Widnes
1950–51 Wigan 10–0 Barrow
1951–52 Workington Town 18–10 Featherstone Rovers
1952–53 Huddersfield 15–10 St Helens
1953–54 Warrington 4–4 Halifax
Replay Warrington 8–4 Halifax
1954–55 Barrow 21–12 Workington Town
1955–56 St Helens 13–2 Halifax
1956–57 Leeds 9–7 Barrow
1957–58 Wigan 13–9 Workington Town
1958–59 Wigan 30–13 Hull
1959–60 Wakefield Trinity 38–5 Hull
1960–61 St Helens 12–6 Wigan
1961–62 Wakefield Trinity 12–6 Huddersfield
1962–63 Wakefield Trinity 25–10 Wigan
1963–64 Widnes 13–5 Hull Kingston Rovers
1964–65 Wigan 20–16 Hunslet
1965–66 St Helens 21–2 Wigan
1966–67 Featherstone Rovers 17–12 Barrow
1967–68 Leeds 11–10 Wakefield Trinity
1968–69 Castleford 11–6 Salford
1969–70 Castleford 7–2 Wigan
1970–71 Leigh 24–7 Leeds
1971–72 St Helens 16–13 Leeds
1972–73 Featherstone Rovers 33–14 Bradford Northern
1973–74 Warrington 24 –9 Featherstone Rovers
1974–75 Widnes 14–7 Warrington
1975–76 St Helens 20–5 Widnes
1976–77 Leeds 16–7 Widnes
1977–78 Leeds 14–12 St Helens
1978–79 Widnes 12–3 Wakefield Trinity
1979–80 Hull Kingston Rovers 10–5 Hull
1980–81 Widnes 18–9 Hull Kingston Rovers
1981–82 Hull 14–14 Widnes
Replay Hull 18–9 Widnes
1982–83 Featherstone Rovers 14–12 Hull
1983–84 Widnes 19–6 Wigan
1984–85 Wigan 28–24 Hull
1985–86 Castleford 15–14 Hull Kingston Rovers
1986–87 Halifax 19–18 St Helens
1987–88 Wigan 32–12 Halifax
1988–89 Wigan 27–0 St Helens
1989–90 Wigan 36–14 Warrington
1990–91 Wigan 13–8 St Helens
1991–92 Wigan 28–12 Castleford
1992–93 Wigan 20–14 Widnes
1993–94 Wigan 26–16 Leeds
1994–95 Wigan 30–10 Leeds
1996 St Helens 40–32 Bradford
1997 St Helens 32–22 Bradford
1998 Sheffield Eagles 17–8 Wigan
1999 Leeds 52– 16 London Broncos
2000 Bradford 24–18 Leeds
2001 St Helens 13–6 Bradford
2002 Wigan 21–12 St Helens
2003 Bradford 22–20 Leeds
2004 St Helens 32–16 Wigan
2005 Hull 25–24 Leeds
2006 St Helens 42–12 Huddersfield
2007 St Helens 30–8 Catalans Dragons
2008 St Helens 28–16 Hull
2009 Warrington 25–16 Huddersfield
2010 Warrington 30–6 Leeds
2011 Wigan 28–18 Leeds
2012 Warrington 35–18 Leeds
2013 Wigan 16–0 Hull
2014 Leeds 23–10 Castleford
2015 Leeds 50–0 Hull Kingston Rovers
2016 Hull 12–10 Warrington


Clubs ordered by number of wins, then by number of runners-up appearances, then by how recently they last won a final, then finally by how recently they last made a runners-up appearance. Only the aggregate winner/loser for the years during the Second World War has been counted.

Club Wins Last win Runners-up Last final lost Total finals
1 Wigan 20201312200432
2 Leeds13201512201225
3 St Helens1220089200221
4 Warrington 820129201617
5 Widnes719846199313
6 Huddersfield619534200910
7 Halifax519877198812
8 Bradford520036200111
9 Wakefield Trinity51963319798
10 Hull4201612201316
11 Castleford41986220146
12 Oldham31927419267
13 Featherstone Rovers31983219745
14 Swinton31928219325
15 Batley3190103
16 Hunslet21934219654
17 Dewsbury21943119293
18 Leigh2197102
19Broughton Rangers §§2191102
20 Hull Kingston Rovers11980620157
21 Salford11938619697
22 Barrow11955419675
23 Workington Town11952219583
24Bradford §§11905118982
25 Sheffield Eagles1199801
26 Rochdale Hornets1192201
27 Catalans Dragons0120071
28 London Broncos0119991
29 Keighley0119371
30 York0119311

The Double

In Rugby League, the term 'the Double' is referring to the achievement of a club that wins the Super League and Challenge Cup in the same season. To date, this has been achieved by ten different clubs.

Club Wins Winning Years
1 Wigan7 1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1994–95 (All Four Cups), 2013
2 St Helens3 1965–66, 1996, 2006
3 Huddersfield2 1912–13, 1914–15 (All Four Cups)
4 Broughton1 1901–02
5 Halifax1 1902–03
6 Hunslet1 1907–08 (All Four Cups)
7 Swinton1 1927–28 (All Four Cups)
8 Warrington1 1953–54
9 Bradford1 2003
10 Leeds1 2015

The Treble

The Treble refers to the team who wins all three domestic honours on offer during the season; Grand Final, League Leaders Shield and Challenge Cup. To date seven teams have won the treble, only Bradford, St Helens and Leeds have won the treble in the Super League era.

Club Wins Winning years
31991–92, 1993–94, 1994–95
21912–13, 1914–15
St Helens
21965–66, 2006
1 1927–28
Bradford Bulls
1 2003
Leeds Rhinos
1 2015

All Four Cups

Main article: All Four Cups

Winning all Four Cups refers to winning the Super League, League Leaders Shield, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge in one season. Not all of these cups were available in the past but have replaced other cups that could be won.

Club Wins Winning years
Bradford Bulls
St Helens

Media coverage

The BBC first covered the final of this competition when Wigan beat Bradford Northern in 1948. At that time though the only TV transmitter was in London, so fans up North never got to see it. It was another four years before another final was covered when Workington Town beat Featherstone Rovers in 1952, the cup final having been broadcast live every year since then. The inception of Grandstand also saw coverage of earlier rounds start to be shown during the 1960s with ITV "World of Sport" even showing games as well for a short period. The BBC has been the predominant broadcaster, showing every final live since 1958 (except the 1982 Final Replay shown as highlights). Eddie Waring was the first commentator for BBC coverage. When he retired, commentary was covered by Ray French and he continues to work for the BBC albeit in semi-retirement, with his last Challenge Cup Final in 2008. From 2009, the present day main commentator is Dave Woods. He usually commentates with Brian Noble, Jonathan Davies, Iestyn Harris or Ian Millward. Nowadays, the BBC continue to broadcast the tournament with Clare Balding hosting from 2006 to 2012 until her move to Channel 4 Racing. Mark Chapman was secondary host in 2012 when Balding was unavailable for the cup and international matches, and previous hosts for the BBC are John Inverdale and Steve Rider.

Sky Sports now have the rights for the early rounds with one match each round and two quarter finals; whilst BBC Sport show two sixth round matches, two quarter finals, both semi-finals and the final.

Duration Broadcaster
1958–2011 BBC Sport
2012–2016 BBC Sport (2 R6 matches, 2 Quarter finals, 2 Semi finals and Final only)
Sky Sports (1 R5 match, 1 R6 match, and 2 Quarter finals only)
2017–2020 BBC Sport

See also


  1. RFL. "About the Competition". Rugby Football League. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  2. 1 2 Demsteader, Christine (2000-10-01). "Rugby League's home from home". BBC Sport. UK: BBC. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  3. Baker, Andrew (20 August 1995). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era". Independent, The. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Julian Shea (22 August 2007). "Rugby league's precious metal". BBC. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  5. Kelner, Simon (1997-05-04). "Saints go shining through the hype". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  8. 1 2 3 4 BBC (27 February 2004). "Profile: Challenge Cup Trophy". BBC Sport. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
  9. 1 2 3 RFL. "Lance Todd Trophy". Rugby Football League. Archived from the original on 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
  10. BBC Sport (2008-08-26). "Lance Todd Trophy winners". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-08.

External links

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