Saturday, November 20, 1999 Published at 10:14 GMT
Sport: Rugby League
BBC 's Challenge Cup cash boost
Leeds Rhinos are the reigning Challenge Cup champions
The Rugby Football League has unveiled a new television deal with the BBC for the Challenge Cup, worth £8.7m over the next five years.
It is a 70% increase over the preceding deal that expired when Leed Rhinos defeated London Broncos in the Cup final last May.
The announcement, made in Manchester, coincided with the draw for the first round of the 1999-2000 competition.
£563,200 prize pot
It is good news for the tournament, especially as it comes in addition to tobacco company Silk Cut's decision to add another two years to its sponsorship deal, worth £1.8m.
Rugby Football League chief executive Neil Tunnicliffe said: "The fact that the BBC have chosen to increase their investment in rugby league...shows the value of the product we provide for them.
"Silk Cut's extension guarantees rugby league's first £1million in sponsorship in the final year, which is a fantastic breakthrough for the game."
The innovation of moving the Challenge Cup final to Scotland in 2000 appears to have paid dividends, despite serious reservations about ticket sales. More than 19,000 tickets have already been bought for the 29 April grand finale at Murrayfield.
A total of 62 amateur teams will play in the first two rounds, with all 18 Northern Ford Premiership clubs joining in the third-round stage and the 12 Super League sides entering for the fourth-round draw.
The winners will secure an unprecedented £120,000 cheque as well as the £563,200 prize pot.
Rugby League Contents