Belfast Telegraph

European Champions Cup final 2015: Toulon v Clermont set to be played in half-empty Twickenham Stadium

By Jack de Menezes

Fears are growing that this weekend’s European Champions Cup final will see Twickenham half-full when two-time champions aim to seal a hat-trick against Clermont Auvergne, leading to free tickets being given away for the European showcase match.

Only 8,000 supporters are expected to travel across the Channel to support the French clubs, and organisers European Professional Club Rugby fear that up to 40,000 seats could be left empty during Saturday’s match. Toulon have already returned 40% of their ticket allocation, while Clermont were awarded just 5,000 tickets for the final – just 16.4% of the 82,000-capacity at Twickenham.

The prospect of two French teams in a European final based in London hasn’t helped, and had Saracens or Leinster made it through the semi-finals, interest was likely to be significantly increased.

However, with Toulon and Clermont reaching the final, it’s possible that the match will see the smallest European final crowd since the 2003 encounter between Toulouse and Perpignan at Lansdowne Road, which saw just 28,6000 turn out in Dublin to watch the match.

Such is the worry for the game that fans who purchase a ticket for the Aviva Premiership final can claim a free European Champions Cup final should they wish to go.

Tickets for the final are being sold through Ticketmaster and starts at £69.12, but a ticket for the 30 May Aviva Premiership final start at £29.12 which includes a free ticket to the European final.

One possible reason behind the poor turnout is the date of the final, which takes place a full four weeks before the end of the Aviva Premiership, Pro12 and the Top 14 seasons. In the past when the Heineken Cup featured, the final was always held on the penultimate weekend of domestic seasons, and EPCR have already confirmed that next season’s final will take place in mid-May rather than at the start.

“We are expecting a crowd of 50,000 at Twickenham, which is the norm when two French clubs play each other outside France, and we are looking at initiatives to encourage sales,” said Paul McNaughton, the interim chairman of the EPCR.

“We expect up to 8,000 supporters to travel from France and I am not sure that in this case playing in the middle of the month would have made a huge difference.

“That said, there is a feeling that the two finals [Friday’s Challenge Cup final between Gloucester and Edinburgh at The Stoop will be a sell-out] should be played in the middle of May rather than the beginning and more are coming round to that. There was no way of moving Saturday’s final to France because 30,000 tickets had already been sold and, anyway, there was no time.”

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