Heineken Champions Cup final could be held in USA as sport looks to grow across Atlantic

La Rochelle and Leinster contested last season's Heineken Champions Cup final and will do so again this year.La Rochelle and Leinster contested last season's Heineken Champions Cup final and will do so again this year.
La Rochelle and Leinster contested last season's Heineken Champions Cup final and will do so again this year.
The finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup could be held in the United States as rugby looks to grow the sport across the Atlantic.

The bidding process for the finals weekends in 2025 and 2026 was opened last month and 23 notes of interest have been submitted, including some from South Africa and the US. Dominic McKay, the chairman of European Professional Club Rugby, the body that organises the tournaments, said he was keen to take the showpiece matches to new venues and new territories.

“We’ve launched a process for bids from the rugby family and beyond for the 2025 and 2026 finals and we’ve been genuinely blown away by the level of interest, both from across Europe but also across South Africa and into the States as well,” said McKay, the former Celtic chief executive and chief operating officer of Scottish Rugby. “So we’ve got a number of cities, countries, stadia vying to host what is the premium competition in club rugby in the world. We’ve got 23 bids that have been put forward so we’re going to work through them over the coming weeks and months and try to come to a decision.

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“I was down in South Africa at the back end of last year and was petitioned quite hard by the mayor of Cape Town and the government to think about bringing a final down to South Africa, and it was really pleasing to hear that level of interest and enthusiasm.”

This season’s finals are being played in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, with Glasgow Warriors taking on Toulon on Friday in the Challenge Cup, and Leinster and La Rochelle meeting in the Champions Cup decider. Next year’s finals will be held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The matches have been the traditional finale to the European club season but this season’s competitions broke new ground by having South African teams involved, and the Stormers and the Sharks both made it as far as the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup. Taking the finals to South Africa would seem a logical step but going to the US would be a radical move. Some high-profile Test matches have been played there in recent years, most notably between Ireland and New Zealand, and the States is due to host the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2031 and the women’s tournament two years later.

“As a global game, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure we support the growth and potential growth in America in lots of ways, and one of these elements is putting showcase events into America,” added McKay. “I’ve been involved in doing that through experience with Scotland and some activity we did there and I think there is a lot of interest in doing something in America. The timing of that is dependent on our confidence in making sure it’s a huge success but with the World Cup being there in the not too distant future, there’s lots of reasons to do something special in the States.”

Meanwhile, this season’s Heineken Champions Cup has broken the one million spectator barrier for the first time since 2013-14. By the time the curtain falls on Saturday’s final, 1,038,691 will have watched this season’s games. The Leinster v La Rochelle game sold out in January while 35,000 tickets have been sold for the Challenge Cup final.