AN email pushing Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final dropped into my inbox on Monday declaring “Five more sleeps until Wembley” and for a moment I thought they had lined up Father Christmas to present the cup.

Well, desperate times, need desperate measures and with the final attendance set to be the lowest in living memory maybe they need to produce a rabbit from the hat.

You think of Wembley - Bobbie's bombs. Offiah's length of the fielder, Murphy's wink and Voll's try. But on Saturday most of us will just see the empty seats.

It is an embarrassment for the game that its most prestigious and historic showpiece game will be played out in front of an empty upper tier.

The gate, by the sounds of it, won't be that much higher than FA Vase Final crowds.

That is not a good look. For a sport that is trying to sell itself in an increasingly competitive market for television and media coverage, sponsorship and for players one of the crown jewels has always been the iconic showpiece at Wembley.

It is the one event that makes people beyond the usual die-hards across the M62 corridor sit up and watch.

How impressed are they going to be seeing row after row of red seats in what is our showpiece event.

Do we really want to tell the rest of the world that our game is dying, because that is the message that non afficionados will pick up and that those who have never liked our game will be happy to propagate.

It also kills it a bit for those there - players and fans.

And to add insult to injury, supporters who have forked out £50 for tickets will be sitting beside the £15 ‘Group on’ brigade.

What next, giving them away in lucky bags? A free seat in the Royal Box if you wear a Camilla face mask and a string of fake pearls?

Obviously, there are logistical problems this year in that Catalans fans will have great difficulties getting to this game.

You can blame Saints for that one for dropping the ball six times in the first 20 minutes.

But that is too easy a cop out. Look back at 1983 when Featherstone, population 15,000, won the cup and the gate at Wembley was still nearly 85,000.

This sort of shambles - and let's not try and pretend it is anything other ­— has been an accident waiting to happen for years.

There are some simple reasons why the cup is not selling out its major event and most obvious one is timing.

The final takes place in the middle of peak holiday season. Now that has been convenient for some in the last three years, poking the semis in at the end of the regular season to give a week to formulate the Super 8s, but it is not doing right by the cup.

Fans; die-hards, floaters and day-outers, will be missing in droves because they will be on holiday or still recovering financially from one.

Sometimes decision makers have to put themselves into the real lives of fans ­— and Wembley, semi-final, school uniform and holiday spend cannot come out of one or two wage packets.

And there again, the cup meanders through the year and then the gap between the semi and final is less than three weeks. It makes no sense at all.

On top of that, the fact that the trains are always messed up on this weekend adds to the problems. Not all fans in this day and age want to go to London there and back on coach.

Weekender fans, particularly neutrals, want to go on the train - and every year bar one or two since 2006 has seen the scourge of the annual rail repairs and bus replacement services.

But we know all this, so why do we insist on planning it for this weekend.

It has taken something like the horror show that will greet us on Saturday to compel the powers that be to sort it out.

There will be some who will argue that it should be moved away from Wembley, but that would make it John Player Trophy mark II and kill another of the game's crown jewels.

It is not about the venue, it is all about timing. The Cup final needs to be brought forward to May or June and reclaim the timeslot that has been given to the artificial Magic gimmick, glorified stag weekend.

And let’s have a good month between the semi and the final to build it properly and allow towns to get behind it like they used to.