European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), which organises the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, is seeking new hosts for the 2020 finals of the two competitions after deciding that Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome cannot stage the events as planned due to the “many uncertainties” created by COVID-19.

The announcement today (Thursday) comes with the EPCR having previously been determined to keep the games in France, and it will also have a knock-on effect for future hosting rights.

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 Vélodrome, home of Ligue 1 football club Olympique de Marseille.

As a consequence, EPCR said it is currently working with its shareholder leagues and unions to secure an alternative venue or venues for the two finals which will be played on the weekend of October 16-18, adding that details will be announced as soon as practicable.

The 2020 Marseille finals were initially due to be played on the weekends of May 1-3 and May 22-23, respectively, with the hosting rights having been awarded in October 2018. EPCR last month confirmed new dates for the knockout stages of the two competitions, with the Vélodrome scheduled to stage the finals as initially planned.

Although EPCR said it remained committed to staging the matches at the Vélodrome, the body said at the time that the situation was “under review” while restrictions on public gatherings and travel remain in place. EPCR suspended the remainder of the season in March following the COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of the adjustment to its future planning, EPCR today said Marseille will now host the 2021 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals at the Vélodrome on the weekend of May 21-22. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which was awarded hosting rights to the 2021 finals back in May 2019, will now stage the 2022 events in London.

EPCR added that tickets for this season’s finals will be valid for the 2021 weekend with no change to category or seating, and all ticket holders will be contacted by email within the next 48 hours with refund details if required.

Image: Orange Vélodrome