Following the announcement that the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup Final will be postponed from its scheduled Wembley date of July 18, the RFL today confirms the cancellation of the Warners Champion Schools competitions.
A number of Welsh schools were still involved in the knockout stages of this RFL-run competition, including the Year 7 road to Wembley.
The majority of the 10 competitions which are thought to make the Champion Schools the biggest knockout competition in world Rugby League – boys and girls from Year 7 to Year 11 inclusive – had reached the regional finals stage when Rugby League activity was suspended as a result of the national lockdown in March.
Given the ongoing uncertainty over when senior schools will reopen, as well as the further uncertainty over the resumption of any form of junior Rugby League, the RFL has reluctantly concluded that while playing the outstanding regional finals may be possible, it will not be practical to stage the national finals days which are usually held in the summer term.
That also means a break in one of the game’s more enduring and popular traditions, as the Year 7 Boys’ Final will not be played at Wembley – where the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match has become established as the curtain-raiser to the Challenge Cup Final since it was renamed in memory of the youngster who scored a superb individual try for Wakefield Schools against their St Helens counterparts in 1986.
Ralph Rimmer, the chief executive of the Rugby Football League, said: “While we realise there will be many higher-profile sporting fixtures and competitions that are affected by the current situation, this is an especially sad cancellation for us to announce.
“The Warners Champion Schools competitions give so much enjoyment to so many youngsters, as a result of a huge amount of work and organisation that is put in by teachers, parents and our RFL staff – with generous financial support from Gary Warner over the last two years.
“The National Finals Days have become established at Victoria Park in Warrington over the last couple of summers, and the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match is a special part of Challenge Cup Final day at Wembley.
“Unfortunately, the unique circumstances of 2020 mean it won’t be possible for the competitions to be completed. We will do all we can to play more of the regional finals, and hopefully the majority of the boys and girls who have been involved in this year’s matches will join us in looking forward to making the tournament even bigger and better in 2021.”