It’s going to be one of the biggest weekends of the season at St James’ Park – and Newcastle United aren’t even playing at home.
For while the Magpies finish off their Premier League campaign at relegated Fulham, their own ground is being loaned out to a different sport.
Rugby Union is moving in and taking over the 52,500 seater venue with two huge games taking place on consecutive days – both live on BT Sport.
It begins on the evening of Friday May 10 with the Rugby Challenge Cup Final. It will be an all French affair with Clermont Auvergne taking on La Rochelle.
Then, the following afternoon, European rugby’s showpiece fixture takes centre stage in the North East.
And what a fixture it will be with the two dominant forces in recent years going head-to-head.
Current holders Leinster are aiming to become the first team to win five Champions Cups, but they’ll have to do it the hard way against an experienced Saracens side.
You would expect the English side to be well-supported as they look to win a third Champions Cup in three years.
Whoever lifts the trophy will be celebrating, as will tens of thousands of fans who will be heading to Newcastle for the weekend. That’s great news for pubs and clubs in the area who will be looking to make the most of a weekend of sport that includes the final Premier League fixtures of the season on the Sunday.
The city is getting ready with a host of events planned, including a Champions Cup Rugby Village on the Quayside. Thousands of people are expected to visit to enjoy entertainment, which means more potential customers for the city’s on-trade.
There will even be a zip wire ride from the Tyne Bridge to the Quayside – after which thrill seekers may well need a drink.
City centre ale houses that show live sport, such as The Bodega expect to be busy.
Ben Ray, general manager at the Sir John Fitzgerald site, said: “We will be showing the rugby and as we are only five minutes from St James’ we should have a good crowd.
“We are normally busy when Newcastle are at home and we did well when we had the rugby league’s Magic Weekends for a few years.”
Rugby club Northern FC is also gearing up for the weekend.
They have a fixture arranged with a touring side from Bangor on the Saturday and will proceed to screen the Champions Cup at the club afterwards.
Assistant manager Michael Giles said: “We will be showing it and we are just starting to push it on social media now. I know a few people are trying to get hold of tickets to go to St James’s Park but there will be plenty here watching it too.”
The club is also looking at arranging a pre-match dinner before screening the game in its recently refurbished upstairs bar.
Michael added that the weekend can also be used to recruit new players.
This weekend gives us the chance to speak to people about joining us to play. We do well with students so this gives us a good reason to talk to them. They might watch it with us and then come and play.”
Nine miles outside the city in Whitley Bay, Whitley Lodge Snooker will also be showing the action.
Owner Richard Wood said: “My son has a ticket for the Friday night at St James’ Park, and we’ll be showing all the action plus the final Premier League games on our four screens. I’ll be promoting all the action on social media.”
Whatever the result at St James’ park, it should be a winning weekend for the trade.
- Show the Rugby Challenge Cup and Champions Cup Finals live on BT Sport on Friday May 10 and Saturday May 11. Don’t forget to promote the games using our promotional assets – find them here.