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EPCR seeks new venue for 2020 European finals as Marseille delayed to 2021

Ryan Chapuis of Stade Francais during the Challenge Cup match between Brive and Stade Francais (Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

European Professional Club Rugby has announced that it is seeking new venues for its Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals this year after abandoning plans to host the matches in Marseille.

The French city’s Stade Velodrome was scheduled to host both fixtures, originally on May 21 and 22, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the EPCR to delay until October 17 and 18.

The body has now announced that it will seek alternative venues for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals, with part of its reasoning given due to its insistence that the games will be played in front of fans.

In its statement, the EPCR said: “With tens of thousands of fans scheduled to travel to the south of France, the Board of EPCR and the local organising committee have agreed that insufficient safeguards are currently in place during the public health crisis to stage two high-profile matches at the 67,000-capacity Stade Vélodrome.”

EPCR has also announced that tickets purchased for the games will remain valid and that refunds will be offered to fans now unable to attend, though it is unclear whether many venues will be able to operate at maximum capacity by October, with almost all active sports leagues currently playing behind closed doors.

France is beginning to open up its sporting venues, with the rearranged French Open having announced plans to admit fans, though organisers of that tournament have admitted they do not know how many spectators will be allowed access. 

EPCR has said that it is open to staging the two finals at separate venues, and has confirmed that it will attempt to retain the same October dates as previously announced.

Marseille’s hosting duties have now been pushed back into 2021, with London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the intended venue for next year, now lined up to stage the 2022 edition. 

The quarter-finals of both tournaments this year will be played between September 18-20, with the semi-finals set for the following weekend.