Italy set to host euro finale
Enrico Borra and Graham Jenkins
October 10, 2012
The Stadio Olimpico plays host to Italy's games in the Six Nations © Getty Images
Italy will play host to the European club finals for the first time at the end of the 2014-15 season - as long as a new long-term agreement between stakeholders can be reached.
This season's Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup will reach a climax in Dublin while European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC), the organisers of both tournaments, recently announced that Paris will stage the 2013-14 finals - the last covered by the current accord governing the structure and format of both competitions.
Italy's place at Europe's top table may currently be under threat as a result of a drive to re-vamp the qualification process, but it appears they remain destined to play a central role the season after next.
"Yes, Italy will host the ERC finals in 2015," said Fabrizio Gaetaniello, one of the Italian Rugby Federation's (FIR) two representatives on the ERC board. "The decision has of course been halted by the general ERC participation agreement renewal process that is ongoing, but it has been in the pipeline since last year.
"What the FIR proposed was a general distribution of the finals between all the six unions involved in the Heineken Cup," added the 39-cap former Italy international. "We agreed in principle that each Union would host the finals in successive years so to grant every country the opportunity to help develop rugby through the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup."
Italy's Six Nations home the Stadio Olimpico, that was a 74,000 sell out for the victory over Scotland in March, looks favourite to play host to the finale of the Heineken Cup, or its replacement, although the San Siro in Milan, that was full to its 80,000 capacity for the visit of New Zealand in 2009, also in the running.
"Whether it will be Rome or Milan we actually are still pondering the better solution," said Gaetaniello, "but San Siro and Stadio Olimpico proved in the recent past to be two highly rated venues for rugby in Italy and the sell out that we achieve in both the Stadia speaks volume on their appeal to Italian and euro fans."
ERC insists no such decision has been ratified but comments from chief executive Derek McGrath suggest they are the leading contender to get the nod with Twickenham (England), the Millennium Stadium (Wales), the Stade de France (France) and Murrayfield (Scotland) all having been handed hosting rights in recent years.
"The Board of ERC has expressed a strong desire to see the two European club rugby finals come to Italy in the near future," he said. "The finals for 2013 and 2014 are confirmed for Dublin and for France. A decision on the finals for future year will await the completion of the current consultation process to confirm the new Accord that will provide the structure and format of European club rugby tournaments from the 2014-15 season and beyond.
"Italian club rugby has been a core element of the European tournaments since the inaugural Heineken Cup in 1995 and has made a very significant contribution over the past 17 years as the tournaments have grown," added McGrath. "Italy has never hosted either final and I think fans across Europe, including Italians, would embrace a European club rugby finals weekend in Italy."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.