Thousands of French and English rugby fans have descended on Edinburgh for the weekend’s European Champions Cup double-header at Murrayfield, generating a multi-million pound windfall for the capital.
Supporters could be found drinking and mixing in pubs and cafés around the city centre by early yesterday afternoon.
And many more enjoyed the specially set up fan village in George Street, with entertainment including interactive games, talk shows and a live band on offer.
Murrayfield hosts the European Champions Cup final between Clermont and reigning champions Saracens this evening. And last night the stadium was the stage for the final of the second-tier European Rugby Challenge Cup, which saw Stade Francais square off against Gloucester.
Hosting the events is a huge coup for Scottish rugby, with over 80,000 tickets having been sold over the course of the weekend. Around 25,000 tickets were sold for the Challenge Cup final while around 55,000 will attend the Champions Cup match.
Organisers said Edinburgh could expect a windfall similar to that enjoyed in Lyon last year, when over 54,000 non-local headed to the city for the 2016 finals. They generated a total economic impact of €20 million (£17m), placing the events in the same ballpark as an RBS Six Nations test match.
The impact is generated by a mixture of spectators, sponsors, media and the broadcast of matches to millions of viewers around the world.
Although Edinburgh club matches attract comparatively low attendances, the European finals still attract a big international audience. Many fans made the long trip from France as part of large groups and were keen to enjoy Edinburgh’s sights and attractions.
Alexander Doubier, 46, said: “It is a beautiful place to watch rugby. There’s a good atmosphere here. We have a very nice time here. We just arrived but we like how people are friendly and smile at us in the streets because we are French.”
Clermont fan Vivienne Benureau, 63, said: “Edinburgh is such a beautiful town. It’s my first time here and I’ve heard it’s very much a town for rugby.” She added: “We can’t wait to go to Murrayfield tomorrow. It is a famous stadium in France so we know all about it. I love the Scottish team.”
Other fans echoed their admiration of Edinburgh as a home of rugby. Frederic Goujon, 45, said: “It’s my first time going to Murrayfield and I’m like a kid with excitement. I like the Scottish teams – they are improving and getting strong again.”
Alexander Carteau, 40, said: “I support and follow all French teams in general so I’ve been to Twickenham and Cardiff and many other stadiums. I’m looking forward to go to Murrayfield for the first time.”