THE Scottish Rugby Union is confident it will attract a tournament record crowd when it hosts this season’s Guinness PRO12 final at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, May 28.
The home of Scottish rugby was yesterday confirmed as the venue for the showpiece occasion and the union immediately set its sights on surpassing the 26,100 who attended the 2011 then Celtic League Grand Final at Thomond Park in Limerick, when Munster beat Leinster.
Until last season, the events were hosted by the highest-seeded finalist, but last season the league switched to a “destination final” and Glasgow became the first Scottish club to win a major trophy when they defeated Munster at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium in front of an 18,000 sell-out.
Even if no Scottish team makes the final this season, Dominic McKay, the SRU’s director of commercial operations, communications and public affairs said he was sure that 2011 record will be surpassed.
“The first thing we want to do is get the record crowd and we are going to beat that,” he said.
McKay, who is also a board director of Guinness PRO12, added: “We are extremely pleased that our bid was successful and we have the privilege of hosting such a prestigious final.
“Bringing the match to Scotland and BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh is a great way to grow the tournament and we want to celebrate the climax to the season by welcoming fans from all PRO12 clubs to the final, to what promises to be a fantastic sporting event.”
McKay added: “Before we finalised the bid we looked at a bunch of venues, both in the west and also here in Edinburgh. We’ve had such a warmth towards rugby in the last couple years, the way we’ve marketed Six Nations and autumn Tests and got really good crowds. We’ve just had 45,000 for a World Cup send-off match, which was pretty impressive. We’re in good shape.
“It will come down to the teams who are in the final but I guess that’s why we are seeing it as a celebration of the whole Guinness PRO12 season. All 12 clubs in the league will be incentivised to sell to their local market.
“Our challenge is to market this to the whole of Scotland and more broadly as a league. It will be a challenge, but it is one we are up for. What a great feeling and shot in the arm for Glasgow and Edinburgh to know that if they play well this season they could get an opportunity at that home final.”
Ibrox had been in place to host the 2014 final had Glasgow been top seeds but, in the end, they faced Leinster and had to travel to Dublin.
Last year’s first “destination final” was at Ulster’s 18,000-capacity Kingspan Stadium and then the Guinness PRO12 said they wanted a full stadium rather than a big stadium.
Asked what had changed this season, tournament director David Jordan, the former Glasgow chief executive, said: “What’s changed this year was the success of last year and the demand for tickets. We could have sold the Kingspan twice over.
“The opportunity to come to Murrayfield was one we were delighted to take.
“I think it’s really good to be at a national stadium. It’s where we want to be in terms of our finals for the future. We want to be at iconic venues and it’s not just about the two teams involved, it’s about creating a rugby festival, a rugby experience.”
BT Murrayfield will host the 2017 European Champions Cup final, but McKay revealed that “a few options” including Easter Road are being looked at for the second-tier Challenge Cup final.
But he said the SRU was always keen to utilise the asset of the national stadium and added: “We are keen to exploit BT Murrayfield as much as we can. We have a venue that is a decent size and whether it be this Guinness PRO12 final, the European Cup final in 2017, the Foo Fighters concert this week, or we also had Celtic there a couple of times last year, we are keen to be open for business and be seen to be open for business.”
Tickets for the Guinness PRO12 final will go on general sale next Tuesday, September 15 (from noon) from scottishrugby.org. Tickets are priced at £20, £30, £35, £45 (Adults) and £10, £15 (U18s).