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Saints confirm one-off MK switch

Northampton Saints have confirmed they will play their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster at stadium:mk.

The Saints had hoped to keep the fixture at their Franklin's Gardens home, but the ground's 13,591 capacity falls below European Rugby Cup's 15,000 threshold for a last-eight tie.

The tournament organisers were unwilling to give special dispensation and, as expected, Northampton have now officially confirmed the move.

Chief executive Allan Robson revealed the Aviva Premiership club had looked at the feasibility of temporarily increasing the capacity of their regular home, but with such a solution not being enough to bring it up to 15,000 the decision was taken to move to the Milton Keynes ground, which holds 21,500.

Robson was also critical of the attitude of the local council's leadership towards the club's plans to increase the capacity; Saints had hoped to use money that supermarket retailer ASDA would have paid for a store on an expanded site.

"We sought approval from ERC to hold the match at Franklin's Gardens, which is our home and where we belong," Robson said. "However ERC's regulations were introduced to develop the status of the Heineken Cup, which is why they insisted that the game be moved to a stadium with a larger capacity.

"We have known about this regulation for a year and a half, which is why we had to nominate an alternative venue and why we have been citing it as one of the main reasons to expand Franklin's Gardens into an arena that can meet ERC's criteria.

"Although we are disappointed that we cannot hold the match in Northampton, we know that stadium:mk can be a great venue for us. It is a lovely stadium with outstanding facilities that is well run and the management there have told us that they want to make it a home from home for both the team and supporters for the day.

"The extra capacity available to us means that all of our season ticket holders, members and friends and family will be able to see the match, as well as many more supporters who would not otherwise have been able to go.

"However the news will no doubt be disappointing for the wider community of Northampton, especially those businesses that would have enjoyed the financial benefits that come from thousands of visitors coming into the town for a massive cup match at the Gardens."

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