RUGBY Football League chairman Brian Barwick insists there is no pressure whatsoever on the Challenge Cup finalists to give rugby league a timely lift.
The sport has come under scrutiny again of late and taken a battering in some quarters for certain issues, including more financial troubles.
The Super League season is nearing its conclusion yet still has no title sponsor, Bradford Bulls and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have admitted to worrying cash-flow problems while there is also some ire about the top-flight restructuring for 2015.
Tomorrow’s Wembley showpiece between Hull FC and Wigan Warriors would certainly give the game a chance to remind people of its appeal, especially if the protagonists can produce anything like their last Challenge Cup final, the 1985 classic widely regarded as the greatest in the competition’s long history.
However, Barwick, the former FA chief executive who has been in charge at Red Hall since January, said: “I don’t know if ‘battering’ is right. There are issues and that’s a straight-forward fact.
“But there are issues in every sport. It’s important to try and make sure we drive our commercial revenue, important for us to look to expand our profile and it’s important for all involved in the sport to look outwards rather than inwards.
“These are things we have to add value to. It’s always good in any sport for its major occasions to have big moments and the Tetley’s Challenge Cup is one of those opportunities. There’ll be a big crowd here, a good audience at home – and another to what we normally have as it is live on the BBC – and it is also one of those times in the year when the national press also show a real interest, too.
“We’re hoping for a great final and, the reality is, given the way they came through their semi against Warrington, Hull can have every right to feel good about their chances.
“It would be great if it could come up trumps and all the signs are there that it will.”
Barwick, 59, witnessed first-hand the brilliance and appeal of ’85 as a Brett Kenny-inspired Wigan edged past Hull 28-24.
“I was at that final as at the time I was assistant editor on Grandstand,” he recalled, about the flagship BBC sports programme.
“It was an awesome game and as good as people remember it was. We did a lot of sport on Grandstand and you had to familiarise yourself with them all.
“Obviously, football is in my blood but I was more familiar with rugby league than a lot of other sports.
“I was up on the gantry that day but I think everyone – even if they didn’t know about the game – knew it was just one of those top-notch sporting finals at its very best.”
Barwick had also worked in television during the build-up to the famous 1980 showpiece between Hull and Hull KR.
“I did a Sportsnight preview and remember having to get Des Lynam up at 6am one morning to go film at a fish-filleting factory in Hull,” he recollected.
“It was one of his first features as a young presenter and one of the toughest things I ever had to do getting him out of bed and over there!”
Now Barwick will be overseeing his first final in his role as non-executive chairman of the RFL.
He added: “I’ve done a lot of travelling, seen a lot of people, seen a lot of games and really put myself out there
“I’ve never tried to pretend I know the detail of the game but if you look at most sports administrations they are roughly the same issues affecting them all and I am enjoying the experience.”