Rugby showpieces fall in Twickenham kitty



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Twickenham to host Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The Champions and Challenge Cup finals (rugby league) will take place at Twickenham Stadium in the month of May with 10,000 fans in attendance in line with the UK Government’s roadmap to recovery as the island nation’s COVID-19 situation shows marked improvement with vaccine rollout.

‘BBC’ stated that the games have been moved from Marseille (France) as the COVID-19 situation is still a bit grim in the European country with the fatal lung disease having taken a huge toll on lives. The French City will now host both finals in 2022 instead.

The Challenge Cup final will be held on May 21st, 2021 and the Champions Cup a day later.

The European Rugby Challenge Cup is an annual European rugby union competition organized by the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR). It is the second-tier competition for European clubs behind the European Rugby Champions Cup. From its inception in 1996 to 2014, it was known as the European Challenge Cup and was governed by the European Rugby Cup (ERC). Following disagreements in the structure of the tournament’s format and division of revenue, the English and French leagues withdrew to form the EPCR, which organizes the Challenge Cup and the Champions Cup since the 2014-2015 seasons.

The European Rugby Champions Cup (known as the Heineken Champions Cup for sponsorship reasons) is an annual rugby union tournament organized by the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR). It is the top-tier competition for clubs whose countries’ national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship.

The Six Nations Championship is an annual international men’s rugby union competition between the teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales.

The 82,000-capacity Twickenham Stadium of Twickenham, Southwestern London in England (UK), is a purpose-built rugby union stadium. The Rugby Football Union, English rugby union governing body, owns and holds its headquarters at the stadium.

‘BBC’ quoted the Rugby Football Union (RFU) (governing body for rugby union in England) Chief Executive and European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) Board Member, Bill Sweeney, as commenting, “We’re looking forward to seeing up to 10,000 fans back at Twickenham Stadium again for these EPCR finals. We are delighted to be chosen to host the fixtures. This is an important opportunity for us to hold events as part of plans for the return of fans to stadia.”

Added Sweeney, “We are working hard with EPCR and the local authorities to put various measures in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those attending each match.”

The finals will return to London in 2023, when they will be played at the 62,850-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

European Cup bosses also confirmed that the Champions Cup next season will again involve 24 clubs rather than 20 – with eight from each of the Premiership, Top 14 and Pro14.

The Top 14 is a professional rugby union club competition that is played in France. Created in 1892, the Top 14 is at the top of the national league system operated by the French National Rugby League, also known by its French initialism of LNR.

The Pro14 is an annual rugby union competition involving professional sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales.

The ‘European Professional Club Rugby’ stated that up to 10,000 spectators will be able to buy tickets for each game with the Challenge Cup decider scheduled for May 21st at 20.00 and the Heineken Champions Cup final going ahead on May 22nd at 16.45 (kick-offs local time). Both matches are subject to licences being granted by the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.

Remarked EPCR Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Gaillard, “Fans are the lifeblood of European club tournaments and we are delighted to be able to welcome them back in a COVID-secure environment for this season’s finals. Twickenham has a storied history with club rugby’s greatest tournament, and it will be a fitting venue to see silverware contested next month.”

The ‘European Professional Club Rugby’ further stated that for the final matches at Twickenham Stadium, EPCR is advising fans to stick to Government advice (locally and in their territory, if not based in the United Kingdom) before making any travel arrangements.

All spectators who attend either final are required to read and sign up to a code of conduct. It is mask mandatory within the facility, unless a spectator is in an assigned seat consuming food or beverages, and social distancing will have to be maintained at all times.

The RFU is working closely with Richmond Council, as well as with other key stakeholders such as the Metropolitan police and South Western Railway, to ensure the events are as safe as possible for the spectators, staff and local residents. Additional measures will be in place, including increased cleaning, extra toilet provisions, assigned gate entry, and a revised transport plan.

The finals of the rugby showpiece had been due to take place at the 67,394-capacity Orange Vélodrome in France, home of Ligue 1 football club Olympique de Marseille, on May 21st-22nd but the European Professional Club Rugby opted to relocate the fixtures due to tight COVID-19 restrictions in place in France.

Marseille also lost hosting rights to EPCR’s 2019-2020 finals due to the pandemic, with the Champions Cup Final eventually played at the 27,000-capacity Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol (UK) on October 17th, and the Challenge Cup Final staged at the 6,428-capacity Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence (France) on October 16th.

The UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown restrictions will allow stadia to open at 25 percent capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators, from May 17th onwards. The plan is to lift all social distancing restrictions from June 21st.

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