Newcastle is bidding to become the host city for European club rugby union's showpiece weekend in May 2018.
The aim is to stage the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup final, European Rugby Challenge Cup final and Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition final in the city. Combined, they form one of the biggest weekends in club rugby, generating over €20.4m million in total economic impact.
If Newcastle is successful in their bid, the Champions Cup final would be held at Newcastle United's St James' Park Stadium, with the Challenge Cup final proposed to held at Kingston Park Stadium, home of Aviva Premiership Rugby club Newcastle Falcons.
The bid is a partnership between Newcastle City Council, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Newcastle United Football Club and Newcastle Rugby Ltd, and has been submitted with the support of the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby Limited.
St James' Park has a capacity in excess of 52,000 and successfully staged a trio of major international matches during Rugby World Cup 2015, with capacity crowds drawn to the city for games involving New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga and Samoa.
St James' Park has also played host to rugby league's Magic Weekend for the past two seasons as well as staging Olympic football during London 2012, the iconic venue providing an eye-catching focal point on the city centre's skyline as well as boasting outstanding transport links, accommodation and amenities.
A fan zone would be accommodated within the city leading up to the event and over the weekend itself. The fan zone which was in place for last year’s Rugby World Cup broke all records with a tournament-high 34,000 people visiting it on one day for the South Africa v Scotland game.
The next stage of the bidding process to award the host of the three events sees a shortlist of candidate cities drawn up by tournament organisers, European Professional Club Rugby, by December 16, 2016. That is followed by venue visits and a selection process through to March 2017, before a final decision is made in April 2017.
Tickets for the 2018 finals will go on sale a week before the 2017 European Rugby Champions Cup final, which is being held in Edinburgh on May 13.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Newcastle now has a global reputation for hosting big sporting events following the success of the Rugby World Cup last year, as well as rugby league’s Magic Weekend for two consecutive years with record crowds.
“These top-tier competitions would bring thousands of fans into the city from all over Europe, with this year’s tournament in Grand Stade de Lyon attracting over 58,000 spectators. Securing this for Newcastle would bring enormous economic benefits for the city and the wider region.”
Cllr Kim McGuinness, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for culture and communities added: “Hosting this tournament would be a real coup for the city, and would be a fantastic legacy to add to the success of Rugby World Cup 2015.
“Events like this not only bring thousands of visitors to the city and the North East, but encourage people to see and get involved in sport. If we were to host, visitors could look forward to our renowned Geordie welcome and the opportunity to explore the unique culture and heritage our city has to offer. We’re confident we have what it takes to deliver this significant sporting event.”
Lee Charnley, managing director of Newcastle United said: “We have a strong recent history of hosting major rugby events at St James’ Park. The sell-out crowds we have welcomed - record attendances in many cases - pay testament to our ability to excel at the hosting of such high-profile sporting events. We would be delighted to host the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup final at St James’ Park.”
Sarah Stewart, chief executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Anyone who experienced Rugby World Cup 2015 or one of rugby league’s Magic Weekends will know what a special atmosphere there was in NewcastleGateshead during both tournaments. Rugby has been widely embraced across the region, from sports fans to budding supporters only just discovering the sport, and we’d love to welcome another major rugby event to the destination.
“Sporting events deliver a significant boost to our tourism economy with hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs all benefiting from the influx of visitors. The economic benefits are felt across the wider region too, not just here in NewcastleGateshead. Hosting the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup final, European Rugby Challenge Cup final and Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition final would add to a special year of events in NewcastleGateshead as we look forward to staging Great Exhibition of the North in 2018 too.”
Mick Hogan, managing director of Newcastle Rugby Limited, said: “Securing the 2018 finals would be another significant boost for the development and growth of rugby in the region.
“The city has two great venues in St James’ Park and Kingston Park Stadium, which would ensure a fantastic weekend of club rugby. When it comes to major events Newcastle upon Tyne always delivers to the very highest levels. We saw that in abundance during last year’s Rugby World Cup, and would see it again if Newcastle was chosen as the host city in 2018.”