Bilbao to host 2018 European finals

Date published: April 3 2017

European club rugby will break new ground as the city of Bilbao will host 2018's Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and Continental Shield finals.

Newcastle has been awarded the prestigious weekend festival for 2019.

The two highest-profile matches in the European club calendar will be staged at the San Mamés Stadium next year, the home of football side Athletic Club. With a capacity of 53,289, the recently-redeveloped arena delivered an impressive bid for the 2018 matches which was supported by the Spanish Rugby Federation (Federación Española de Rugby), Ministry of Sport (CSD), Biscay Province, the Basque Government and the City of Bilbao. A high-class venue built following the most advanced environmental guidelines, it has been selected by UEFA as one of the hosts for EURO 2020.

2018 will be the first time that the showpiece games have taken place outside of Europe's traditional rugby territories after Bilbao's bid was deemed successful by EPCR's Executive Committee following a competitive tender process. Newcastle's outstanding application was also recognised with the 2019 blue-riband matches scheduled for St James' Park.

The economic impact generated for the city of Lyon from the staging of the 2016 finals weekend was estimated at €20.4 million, demonstrating the significant legacy to the local economy by Europe's premium club rugby tournaments.

Simon Halliday, EPCR Chairman, said: "We are very excited to be taking the best club rugby in the world to fans in what is largely a new market. Bilbao is an excellent destination which breaks new ground for our tournaments and we see this as a big step in the expansion of our sport across the continent.

Fans have previously flocked to matches in Spain both in the European Cup and for last season's Top 14 final, and they will be sure of a unique, atmospheric weekend in 2018. Newcastle's commitment to the bid also made it an easy decision to award them the finals in 2019, building on their significant experience of staging major sporting occasions including Rugby World Cup 2015 matches."

Alfonso Feijoo, President Federación Española de Rugby (FER), added: "This is a great honour for the Spanish Rugby Federation and we are extremely pleased to learn of EPCR's decision to choose Bilbao and the San Mamés Stadium as the host for the 2018 European club finals. These prestigious tournaments will enable us to boost the development of our sport, not only in the Basque Country but across Spain.

"I would like to thank EPCR in particular, who have rewarded the hard work that we have carried out with the support of the Ministry of Sports (Consejo Superior de Deportes), the football league, the Spanish Football Federation, the Basque Federation of Rugby and above all, the three Basque institutions: the City of Bilbao, the province of Biscay and the Basque government, who have joined forces to make this event happen.

"I would also like to thank the Athletic Club of Bilbao, who have collaborated with us in a decisive way, and the combined efforts of all these parties have enabled us to present a very strong bid that has won the confidence of EPCR. We will keep working hard together in the coming months in order to deliver finals that will be worthy of the extraordinary and historic stadium of San Mamés."