Tuesday 23 January 2018

No Irish bids among 18 competing for 2020 finals

'Gaillard is upbeat about the health of European rugby in its fourth season under new management' Photo: PA
'Gaillard is upbeat about the health of European rugby in its fourth season under new management' Photo: PA
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

European rugby chief Vincent Gaillard has revealed that Ireland will not be bidding to host the 2020 Challenge and Champions Cup finals.

Eighteen cities across eight countries have expressed an interest in staging the weekend, but Dublin is not a runner because the Aviva Stadium is hosting games as part of the UEFA European Championships that June.

EPCR are taking the final beyond the traditional rugby bases this year with Bilbao the first Spanish city to host the event and next year Newcastle's St James' Park has been selected.

The process to stage the 2020 finals is under way and four new countries have expressed an interest in bringing the double-header to their shores.

"We launched the process about a month ago and we've received 18 expressions of interest from eight different countries, four of which are new," EPCR director general Gaillard said.

"No (Ireland has not bid), simply because of Euro 2020; the Aviva is taken for that in June and they must be prepared and I think they just have enough on their hands to focus on the Rugby World Cup."

Gaillard is upbeat about the health of European rugby in its fourth season under new management.

partners That's despite the struggle to attract key sponsors to the tournament, with Turkish Airlines and Heineken the only principle partners to have signed up to date. Deals with both expire at the end of this season.

The French official revealed that both the Six Nations and the English Premiership are enduring similar issues in trying to attract title sponsors for their competitions, describing the market as challenging.

The move to one pay-television network in the British and Irish market is expected to be of benefit; EPCR have long-acknowledged that splitting the games across Sky Sports and BT Sport is unwieldly.

BT Sports will have exclusive rights next year, while one Irish match per week will be shown free-to-air, with an announcement on which Irish broadcaster will have the rights due next month.

Although South Africa now has two teams in the Guinness PRO14, Gaillard said there is no immediate prospect of either the Cheetahs or the Southern Kings gaining entry to the EPCR-run competitions.

"We're observing it, but it's not on the agenda at all," he said. "We have a format that works very well, a format designed for European teams to play in it.

"If ever there's a request made by either the PRO14 or the South African clubs to get in, we'll discuss it. But it hasn't been discussed."

Irish Independent

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