European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) has announced that the finals of this year’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments will not take place at Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome as originally planned.
The decision has been made following consultation with the relevant local authorities in France amid the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the country. The move will look to reduce cross-border travel where possible and minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The finals had been due to take place at the Vélodrome, home of Ligue 1 football club Olympique de Marseille, on May 21-22 but the venue will now stage the 2022 editions instead. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had been pencilled in to host the 2022 finals but will now host in 2023.
EPCR said it is working with shareholder leagues and unions to put in place alternative arrangements for this year’s matches, with the health and welfare of players, staff, officials and fans to be the primary concern. Tickets already purchased for the Marseille finals will be valid for 2022 and fans will be able to seek refunds.
The semi-finals of this year’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will also be played at the venues of the home clubs, with the draws for the two competitions to take place on April 11.
It marks the second consecutive year that EPCR has been forced to remove the finals from the 67,000-seat Vélodrome. The decision was made to strip the venue of last year’s games due to the ongoing difficulties posed by COVID-19.
The final of last year’s Champions Cup was instead held at Ashton Gate in the English city of Bristol. The final of the Challenge Cup was held at the Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Marseille was initially awarded hosting rights to the 2020 finals back in 2018. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was awarded the 2021 matches in May 2019 but will now host the fixtures two years later than originally planned.