THE announcement that the Challenge Cup Final will be brought forward to July from 2020, combined with a new knock-out cup for the Championship and League 1 clubs, has to be welcomed.

The game’s most historic of competitions has been knocked about from pillar to post since rugby league’s switch to summer.

Losing its traditional end of season May slot, followed by the hiatus when Wembley was being renovated, combined with an increasing emphasis on the Grand Final have all combined to take a bit of shine off the cup, culminating in the lowest finale crowd for decades.

It has been clear for years that staging the Wembley final in peak school holiday season when families are either away and spent up for the month was having an adverse effect on gates.

In the real world people are not awash with cash at that time of the year, particularly when you throw in the cost of forking out for new school uniforms from that month’s pay packet too.

Playing it in London on a Bank Holiday when hotel prices are at a premium and when every year without fail the train line undergoes major track repairs has seen fans, particularly neutrals, desert the showpiece in droves.

The date, for me, was the most significant aspect in slowly killing the finale.

Plenty discussed shifting it to smaller venues. Well if that had have happened then we would have been marching headlong into John Player Trophy Mark II territory and the crowds would have withered year on year.

So the two decisions taken this week by the RFL with re-energise the competition.

The double-header aspect is more significant than simply being a ploy to fill out a few more Wembley sections.

It has been quite clear that teams below the top flight, given the difference in full time and part time status, have had virtually no chance of ever getting to Wembley again.

The new 1895 Cup competition will give a real chance for proud clubs like Leigh, Featherstone, Dewsbury and Sheffield to have a crack at getting to Wembley under their own steam.

The latter of those changes come into play next year and should do much to boost the event.

It may have come just in the nick of time as the competition was definitely at risk of going the way of the Floodlit Trophy, Lancashire Cup, John Player Trophy and the Premiership.