Saracens ponder quarter-final venue options
January 21, 2013
Saracens' new Allianz Park home will play host to their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Cardiff Blues this weekend © Getty Images
Saracens are hoping to get permission to stage their Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Ulster at their new Allianz Park ground.
The Premiership side, who booked a place in the last eight of the competition with a 40-7 victory over Edinburgh on Sunday in their last outing at Vicarage Road, intend to seek planning permission to temporarily increase the capacity of their new stadium from 10,000 to 15,000 in order to comply with the criteria laid down by European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of the competition.
"This is our home ground now so yes we would like to play that game at home", said Saracens chief executive Ed Griffiths at the official unveiling the state-of-the-art artificial pitch that has been installed at their new Barnet home.
Saracens will use their Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Cardiff Blues on Sunday as a test event with an invited audience of 3,500 set to attend before the official opening game against Premiership rivals Exeter Chiefs on February 16. But they require the support of the local council if they are to play host to Heineken Cup rugby this season with the battle for a place in the semi-finals set to take place on the weekend of April 5/6/7.
"There are number of hoops to go through," explained Griffiths. "We have planning permission to have crowds of up to 10,000 but the capacity for a Heineken Cup quarter-final must be at least 15,000. We are not going to do anything without having a discussion with the council and together we will decide whether it is too soon for a new venue or whether it is perfectly possible to increase the capacity for one match."
Griffiths is confident that the 1,100 capacity temporary stands that will be erected at either end of Allianz Park for regular season games could easily be replaced by larger ones seating 3,500 fans each that would ensure the stadium fulfils ERC criteria.
But having seen his nomadic club play at several other venues, including Wembley and Twickenham, during their protracted three-year move, Griffiths remains open to the idea of staging the high-profile euro clash elsewhere. However, any return to Wembley may be scuppered by a clash with the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final that is due to be staged there the same weekend.
"We are not massively concerned about it," he said. "There are another couple of fairly good stadiums. We've played at Wembley several times and are very familiar with it and it feels like a home ground. Twickenham is also an option as we have played there before.
"We are in discussions with lots of stadiums at the moment. We want to bring those to a decision by the end of this week, certainly by the end of next week. We will stage a big event either way."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.