18 May, 15:44
It's down to the wire now for the five contenders who have been shortlisted for the ultimate individual accolade in northern hemisphere rugby, ERC European Player of the Year 2013.
And, although there are still eight teams in the chase for those coveted places in the final almost four months away, advance sales of over 20,000 is a clear indication of the huge popularity of rugby's premier club final.
"Almost all of the best supported teams in Europe have won through to the quarter-finals to be played on the first weekend in April," said Jean-Pierre Lux, the ERC Chairman.
"I can see the quarter-finals and semi-finals attracting massive crowds and with the allocation of tickets to the two teams in the final to be taken into account, an advance sale of over 20,000 at this stage is great news.
"We have had a fantastic tournament so far with the 72 Pool matches producing rugby of the highest quality and intensity - and, with the cream of European club rugby now through to the knock-out stages, I am sure we can look forward to seven more outstanding matches."
ERC, together with Scottish Rugby and other partners City of Edinburgh Council, VisitScotland and EventScotland, have developed a comprehensive promotional campaign to maximise the first Heineken Cup final in Scotland. The final is being billed as "European rugby's biggest party" and organisers aim to create a festival atmosphere in the City. The promotional campaign includes television and press advertising, direct mail promotions, as well as Edinburgh-based activities such as a special Heineken Cup Final Countdown Clock, which will be erected in the city centre in February.
"We are absolutely delighted to have already sold more than 20,000 tickets. This is more than we sold this time last year and is evidence that the partnership approach we have adopted with Scottish Rugby, the Edinburgh Council, VisitScotland and EventScotland has already been very effective," said Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive.
"All indications suggest that the 10th anniversary Heineken Cup Final in Edinburgh will be a celebration of all that is good in European Rugby. It promises to be a weekend to remember, both on and off the pitch."
More than 600,000 fans passed through the turnstiles at the Pool stages of this year's Heineken Cup, which is the highest in the tournament's history. There were record attendances at four of the six rounds of the Pool stages, reflecting the continued growth of the tournament.
Tickets for the Heineken Cup final in Sunday, May 22, start from £15-22 and are available from http://www.ercrugby.com/