Finals outside Europe a possibility for EPCR, but South Africa involvement still a long way off

EPCR CEO Vincent Gaillard says there has been no discussion at executive committee level around the possibility of South African involvement in European tournaments.

Last year, the Pro14 expanded to include South Africa’s Southern Kings and Cheetahs and in May tournament boss Martin Anayi pointed out the benefit of EPCR competitions as a prize to sit below the trophy itself.

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“When there’s no promotion/relegation, European qualification is our jeopardy.”

Speaking in May, Anayi admitted that the 2019/20 season would already be too soon to invite another nation under the EPCR umbrella. And at yesterday’s Champions Cup launch Gaillard signalled the timeline – if there is one – could be much longer. 

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“We’re not any closer to it, no,” Gaillard said in the Aviva Stadium.

“As much as we heard clubs expressing an interest, the subject has never been discussed around our executive committee or boardroom, never.

“It’s been discussed in terms of the clubs expressing interest, but it will take a while.”

Exporting product is of more immediate concern for the EPCR.

The addition of NBC as a broadcaster in the United States carries excitement and possibilities for growing an international audience and the move to stage last season’s finals in Bilbao has been deemed enough of a success to bring about a repeat effort, perhaps in 2021.

Before then, the Challenge and Champions Cup will return to traditional markets for their next two finals with Newcastle installed for this season’s decider and Marseille likely to take the nod for 2020 next week.

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Beyond that – though Gaillard expressed a hope to bring a final to Rome – he can see a scenario where finals take place outside of Europe.

“In our previous host city (selection) processes we have reached out to those places and never really gotten much traction, yet.

“Our big priority in terms of the US market was getting the television deal to get the exposure and that’s the deal with NBC, which is a big thing for us because it will be available every single weekend with more regular coverage and the final is free-to-air nationally… going there for the finals, we’re not there yet, but it is possible.”