European Challenge Cup Final: Northampton Saints v Bourgoin
7 May 2009 12:38pm
By Angelina Lacroix
Following formal representations from European Challenge Cup finalists Bourgoin and the French club's body, the LNR, ERC has agreed to move the Challenge Cup final from Gloucester's Kingsholm to The Twickenham Stoop on Friday, 22 May (kick-off 7.45pm local time).
The switch has been made with the full support and backing of Northampton Saints.
"Bourgoin and the LNR raised a number of concerns with ERC this week regarding the location of the 2009 final after consulting with fans in the wake of their semi-final victory over Worcester Warriors," said ERC chief executive Derek McGrath.
"Even though we began the process of finding a suitable venue for this season's final way back in January, and formally announced Kingsholm as the venue last Sunday, we have been open to the arguments put forward by Bourgoin who are delighted to reach this European final. To their credit Northampton Saints were very understanding and agreed to a switch as a gesture to the French club.
"With the day before the final being a Bank Holiday in France it was felt this might put pressure on their travelling fans. It was therefore agreed across the board that a switch to a London venue would be beneficial to the Bourgoin fans.
McGrath added: "ERC would like to acknowledge the magnanimous gesture by Northampton and the understanding and support of Gloucester Rugby with whom we have been preparing to stage the final. All our efforts now turn to the Twickenham Stoop, which has hosted two previous European Challenge Cup finals, and we know we can look forward to another great occasion at this fine venue".
The initial decision on the venue, date and time for the 2009 European Challenge Cup final was taken after consultation with the clubs, broadcasters and, prior to the semi-finals, the board of ERC and its relevant constituent parties.
The process of selecting a suitable venue started in January when final eight teams were known, as were the semi-final and final options.
Having identified a list of suitable and available venues in the UK and France, ERC asked its stakeholder Unions and Club bodies for expressions of interest in hosting the final.
The results of the quarter-finals saw Bourgoin and three English sides (Northampton, Worcester Warriors and Saracens) qualify for the semi-finals. With only England having expressed an interest in hosting the final, and with a three week gap between the semi-finals and the final, ERC shortened the list of possible candidates to two available venues in England.
Finally, with the objective of ensuring the largest possible crowd for this showpiece game, Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium was selected.
Representations were received by ERC from a French delegation including Bourgoin chairman Rene Flamand and LNR Chairman Pierre-Yves Revol. Following discussions with ERC Chairman, Jean-Pierre Lux, ERC approached Northampton Saints who agreed to consider the move.
Having addressed the logistical and operational impact of a venue change and consulted with ERC partners and stakeholders, the decision was confirmed at 11am this morning (Thursday, 7 May).
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.