European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), organisers of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup competitions, has announced that the two tournaments’ finals weekends will return to Cardiff and Bilbao in 2025 and 2026, respectively.
Today’s (Wednesday’s) announcement follows a tender process conducted in conjunction with The Sports Consultancy agency that generated bids from 23 stadia across 12 countries. The 2025 EPCR Finals will be held at Principality Stadium in the Welsh capital, with the 2026 event taking place at Estadio San Mamés in the Spanish city.
Dominic McKay, chairman of EPCR, said: “Returning to Cardiff 30 years on from the iconic first final means a great to deal to us and our friends here in the city, and we will celebrate the milestone appropriately.
“We know this rugby heartland will not only be proud to host this historic weekend, but will welcome rugby fans from across the world to join us in Cardiff for our EPCR Finals Weekend in 2025.
“For 2026, we cannot wait to return to Bilbao, which hosted a superb celebration of rugby in a world-class destination in 2018. Our selection of host cities such as this reflects our intention to continually deliver outstanding experiences for fans, clubs and stakeholders for our marquee weekend.
“We know Bilbao will attract spectators from a varied demographic, bringing our sport to even more fans in a stunning host city.”
Cardiff has a long connection with EPCR having staged high-profile Heineken Cup/Champions Cup deciders on seven previous occasions – the last being in 2014. Next year’s event will celebrate the 30th edition of EPCR’s elite final since Stade Toulousain made history by defeating Cardiff after extra-time at Cardiff Arms Park in 1996.
Abi Tierney, Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) group CEO, said: “It’s been 30 years since Cardiff hosted that first final at Cardiff Arms Park and we embrace the opportunity to host the 2025 finals at Principality Stadium, in the year we celebrate 25 years of our magnificent stadium.
“We look forward to working closely with our partners at Welsh Government, Cardiff Council and EPCR to deliver an outstanding event, welcoming new and long-standing rugby supporters from across the globe to the city of Cardiff, to soak up the unrivalled atmosphere at the home of Welsh rugby.”
Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, added: “Since it opened, events at the Principality Stadium have generated in the region of £2bn (€2.34bn/$2.54bn) in visitor spending and supported more than 50,000 full-time jobs locally – clear evidence that as well as making for a special atmosphere in the city, major events like this also deliver significant economic benefits.
“Historically the EPCR always performs strongly for host cities in terms of visitor numbers and spend. In fact, the last time the tournament came to Cardiff it generated £24m in direct economic impact just from a single Saturday match. Next year, with a whole weekend to enjoy, we would anticipate that being higher again.”
Bilbao was a landmark choice in 2018 when the city staged the first EPCR finals weekend outside of European rugby’s traditional six nations. Home to LaLiga football team Athletic Club de Bilbao, the 53,000-capacity San Mamés is due to host this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final and the 2025 Europa League final.
The Bilbao Council, the Provincial Council of Biscay and the Basque Government jointly said: “We are committed to creating a vibrant and exciting celebration of rugby and our culture, with the Investec Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup at the heart of those celebrations and look forward to showcasing our wonderful region to all the visiting fans.”
Since the first decider in 1996, EPCR finals have been staged at 23 different venues in six countries. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is to finally stage European club rugby’s biggest event later this year after it was confirmed as the host of the 2024 EPCR Finals Weekend back in April.
The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals will take place on May 24-25 at the home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs’ stadium had been due to host last season’s finals but they had to be switched to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium because of complications caused by the Premier League finishing later because of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the impact of the rugby fixture schedule because of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was originally due to stage the finals in 2021 before seeing its hosting rights pushed to 2022 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 finals to be removed from Marseille’s Orange Vélodrome.
The Vélodrome was instead awarded hosting rights to the 2021 finals, but the matches ultimately ended up being played at London’s Twickenham Stadium due to ongoing restrictions in France. As a result, the Vélodrome’s matches were pushed back to 2022 and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’s games were moved to 2023.