The eleventh Heineken Cup final will be played on Saturday 20 May 2006 at the Millennium Stadium (kick-off 3pm) - ten years on from the inaugural final at Cardiff Arms Park between Toulouse and Cardiff in January 1996.
Speaking on the second day of the ERC Clubs Conference in Cardiff involving delegates from the 44 clubs competing in the Heineken Cup (24) and European Challenge Cup (20), the tournament organisers, today (Thursday 1 September) announced that European club rugby's showpiece match will be back on a Saturday after being staged on a Sunday for the last two seasons.
Over 3,000 tickets have already been sold for the 2006 Heineken Cup final with the big kick-off to the eleventh tournament still fifty days away. The record Heineken Cup final attendance of 74,600 was set at the Millennium Stadium for the 2002 clash between Leicester Tigers and Munster and ERC is targeting another bumper crowd for Cardiff '06.
Meanwhile the 2005 final, won by Toulouse for a record third time in front of a Murrayfield crowd of 51,326, netted the Scottish economy £12m. The results of an independent economic impact study conducted into the Edinburgh final last May concluded that the event had been worth around £12 million to the Scottish economy, some £9.5 million of which had been spent in the area of the Scottish capital.
The study, conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, interviewed some 800 spectators and those surveyed gave a big thumbs-up to the atmosphere, overall enjoyment of the Heineken Cup final and experience of Edinburgh for the final weekend itself. Other conclusions of the study were:
* Most spectators had booked their tickets three months in advance of the final
* Overall 34% of spectators stayed overnight with the majority staying in Edinburgh
* 16% attending the final took time to see Edinburgh's tourist sites
* 24% took time to shop in Edinburgh spending on average £114 per person
"These results prove that the partnership approach we first adopted when we came to Cardiff in 2002, and have enhanced at every final since then, is working well to build the value of the Heineken Cup final for all its stakeholders," said Derek McGrath, ERC Chief Executive.
"The strategy we applied was to market not only our event, but also Edinburgh and Scotland, and we are preparing to roll out our Cardiff '06 campaign in partnership with the WRU, Millennium Stadium, City of Cardiff Council, Wales Tourist Board and the Welsh Assembly Government.
"With a Saturday final, we are confident of turning our 11th showpiece final into a weekend-long event that will be a festival of rugby for all sports fans.
Porthcawl recently received a WRU facilities grant and funding from Natwest RugbyForce in order to give their changing rooms a facelift. This came after receiving £10,000 in a WRU facilities grant last year to tarmac their car park. The improvements have already helped to make the club more accessible, not only for their own members and players but for the whole community.
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new, accredited Safeguarding and Protecting Children course - funded by the WRU and delivered in partnership with Sport Wales and the NSPCC - fo rugby club volunteers around Wales.
The SWALEC semi-final draws threw up some mouth-watering clashes in the Cup, Plate and Bowl as the 12 teams aim for the Millennium Stadium Finals Day. All the semi-finals are to be played on the weekend of April 12.
Welsh whistler Rhys Thomas continues to scale the heights of the game as he prepares to be an official in this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, undoubtedly the showpiece event on the World Series calendar.
Wales International Ian Evans and Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell swapped rugby balls for paint pots at Tonna during the RBS 6 Nations. They surprised club players with a special clubhouse makeover to launch NatWest RugbyForce 2014 - a programme developed in partnership with the WRU to make rugby clubs stronger businesses by improving and renovating their facilities with the support of volunteers and the local community.
Fresh from claiming the Bowl honours in Tokyo last Sunday, the Wales Sevens squad have settled into their routine as they prepare for this weekend's Hong Kong tournament where Iolo Evans is aiming high, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.
The Welsh Rugby Union has recently teamed up with Prostate Cymru to help the charity launch its latest campaign to raise awareness of the disease. Members of the Wales squad helped produce a short video and promotional material for the campaign titled 'The Best Defence - is to know the FACTS'.