Newcastle’s bid to host European club rugby union's showpiece weekend in May 2018 this week reached the inspection stage, with a two-day visit from tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR).
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.
The city's bid has already passed through to the shortlist for candidate cities, and this week hosted a two-day inspection from EPCR. That visit concluded today, Newcastle’s bid being a joint partnership between Newcastle City Council, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Newcastle United Football Club and Newcastle Falcons rugby club.
Vincent Gaillard, chief executive of EPCR, said: “At EPCR, we are greatly encouraged by the interest that a number of host cities have shown in hosting the 2018 finals.
"We are in Newcastle as part of the process of understanding the vision for the events now that we are also evaluating in the other interested cities. It has been great to witness today the passion for sport that lives and breathes in Newcastle. We will announce the successful bid in April this year.”
Mick Hogan, managing director of Newcastle Falcons, said: “Newcastle has a proven track record of hosting major rugby events, like three games in Rugby World Cup 2015 and two Super League Magic Weekends.
“It is about showcasing Newcastle as an emerging city within rugby. Crowds are up at Newcastle Falcons this season, and participation rates get boosted by major events. If we are lucky enough to land the European finals in 2018 we would have a big year leading up to the event, and it’s how we use that to really kick on with a rugby legacy up here in terms of volunteers, spectators, players and officials.”
Councillor Kim McGuinness, Cabinet Member for Culture and Community at Newcastle City Council, echoed that enthusiasm, saying: “It has been great hosting EPCR for the past two days and showing them everything the city has to offer.
“The residents here are so excited when we bring big events here like Rugby World Cup and Magic Weekend rugby league, and the people of Newcastle are probably our biggest attraction. It is good that the EPCR delegation have come here and seen it first hand.
“Events like this bring a significant economic benefit to the city, they are great for local businesses and the city and general. But further than that they bring a lot of new people to the city to see our culture and heritage, as well as the sporting action.”