Catalans Dragons, the current Challenge Cup holders, may not defend their historic title this year after the club refused to pay a £500,000 bond to re-enter the competition.
The RFL put this measure in place after a shortfall of around £800,000 compared to their projected income for the 2018 final.
A total 50,672 people saw the Dragons beat Warrington at Wembley which is the lowest Challenge Cup final attendance since 1937.
The bond has already led to the withdrawal from the 2019 competition of Toronto Wolfpack, while fellow French side Toulouse Olympique maintained their 2018 stance of not entering.
All three clubs have competed as guests of the RFL in previous years are they are all non-members of the RFL Council.
The withdrawal of the Dragons is yet to be confirmed but it would be a major blow to the game’s governing body after their ground-breaking triumph just five months ago.
Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch explained: “The club has been officially advised in December that a £500,000 deposit will be asked by the RFL to play in the Challenge Cup in 2019.
“We, as a club, want to participate to this prestigious competition and defend our title but it would be irresponsible to accept this decision.
“Thus, we have asked the RFL to reconsider its demand and we are now waiting for a decision.
“The players would be very frustrated not being able to defend their title and we hope that we’ll have an answer as soon as possible. “
The RFL were under the impression that Catalans had agreed to the terms, which are aimed at protecting the financial position of all member clubs.
A statement from the governing body read: “We have been surprised and disappointed by the uncertainty over the Catalans Dragons participation in the 2019 Challenge Cup, which surfaced just before Christmas.
“We have been in discussions with the club since then, and will continue those discussions to search for a solution.”
Their are only two options for the RFL right now. In my eyes I don’t see how the RFL has any other option but to kick Catalans out of the competition. The precedent has been set with Toronto and Toulouse and it is an absolute mess at the moment for the RFL with the Challenge Cup yet to have a confirmed sponsor.
The best thing the RFL could do though is hold up their hands, admit that they’ve made a mistake and let the three clubs enter the Challenge Cup. If they do take ownership of their mistake and rectify the situation they will be forgiven, to an extent.
The only other alternative is that they kick out the holders of the competition, in Catalans, who created history in August and was paraded as one of the most significant moments in Rugby League’s recent history and that will be something that they will never be forgiven for.
If Catalans Dragons pay the bond and play in the Challenge Cup then the integrity of the competition is compromised. On the other hand, If the Dragons refuse to pay the bond and are refused entry into the Challenge Cup then the integrity of the competition is compromised.
This means that the RFL must get rid of the bond to ensure that they do not receive any backlash.