CASTLEFORD Tigers’ chief executive Steve Gill says reaching the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final will garner the club around £300,000, but urged the Rugby Football League to re-think the competition’s scheduling to enable better business opportunities.
They have reached Wembley for the first time in 22 years and will play illustrious West Yorkshire derby rivals Leeds Rhinos a week on Saturday.
A famous rugby league town, Castleford’s ardent fans are sure to come out in force for the occasion as the club strives to lift the famous trophy for only the fifth time in their long history.
But, with just 13 days between Sunday’s stunning 28-6 semi-final win over Widnes Vikings and the showpiece itself, it has left little time for preparation.
“We were up selling tickets fast this (Monday) morning,” Gill told The Yorkshire Post. “But, in fact, there was a lot of disappointed people who haven’t got the ones they actually wanted.
“The Category 4 tickets (£42) were all sold out before lunchtime.
“People queued for up to two or three hours all confident they’d get what they were after.
“Yet – for all the excitement of us getting to Wembley – we’ve had to deal with some disappointed people.
“We had to ring the RFL to get some more tickets and I know they want to drive it online too.
“But I think it just shows that Wembley being only two weeks after the semi-finals needs looking at. It doesn’t give clubs a fighting chance of making the best out of a great opportunity.”
The swift turnaround is, indeed, the shortest in recent history.
Last season there was a month’s gap between the last-four meetings and Hull FC’s final with Wigan Warriors while in previous years it has ranged from three weeks up to six in 2012.
But it has proved a difficult conundrum for the competition’s organisers as, at the other end of the scale, a six-week break sees the Challenge Cup lose plenty of its momentum.
Of course, the wishes of broadcasters BBC have to be taken into account as well.
That said, Castleford, who have endured financial problems in recent years, are delighted with the response from their fans.
“It is an added bonus as it’s something we’d not budgeted for,” said Gill.
“Getting to Wembley could bring us around an extra £300,000, which is great.
“When you get a boost like this it does make you think how you could have done things differently with your recruitment, but you just have to park that thought and move on.
“We are happy with the players we’ve signed for 2015 and believe we’ve made the right decisions.”
Revitalised Castleford, who last won the Challenge Cup in 1986, are also chasing top spot in Super League and Grand Final glory as they seek a first championship title.
Meanwhile, Widnes chief executive James Rule has thanked club fans who have provided information on so-called supporters who mounted a violent pitch invasion at the end of Sunday’s game in Leigh.
He described the scenes as “sickening” and “shameful” while vowing to work closely with the RFL and the police to carry out a full investigation.
Rule said: “It’s evident from the overnight response that our genuine supporters are as disappointed and frustrated by the scenes as everybody is within the club.
“Together we can begin to take the first steps of rebuilding our reputation.”
Any fans with information on the transgressors should email email@example.com.
Widnes player Willie Isa will face the RFL disciplinary panel tonight charged with two separate counts of Grade B dangerous contact on Castleford duo Andy Lynch and Kirk Dixon.