The Aviva Stadium was the venue for today’s launch of the 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup for the participating Pro14 sides. The new moniker for this competition sees the return of Heineken as the competitions main sponsor. The former Heineken Cup (1995 to 2014) and the latter Champions Cup (2014-2018) is now renamed as a hybrid of the two – The Heineken Champions Cup.
The competition was launched by Craig Doyle from BT Sports and Joe Molloy from Virgin Sports. BT are the exclusive pay per view TV rights holder in Ireland and the Uk for this year’s competition, so fans will no longer be scrambling for their remotes to see which station is showing which match this time around.
The holder’s Leinster feature in the competitions first match, as Wasps are the visitors to the R.D.S. for a Friday night game under lights. There will also be one match in each round of games on free to air TV. For Round 1 the chosen fixture will be the other Pool 1 fixture which sees Bath host Toulouse at the Recreation Ground on Saturday 13th October. This will be shown by both Channel 4 and Virgin media (the artist formerly known as TV3). Virgin will also have a weekly highlights package featuring the Irish provinces games.
New also this season is a TV deal with US channel NBC Sports who will show the game on terrestrial TV in the states. This will bring top-tier European rugby to a new audience (and will also be a welcome development for ex-pat’s living in the US).
Both the Heineken Champions Cup final and the Challenge Cup final will be held in St.James Park, Newcastle on the weekend of 10th/11th May 2019. There are already over 30,000 tickets sold for the 52,000 seater venue and it promises to be a festival of rugby in the city that weekend. Newcastle has a good track record in this regard, having hosted three matches in the 2015 World Cup. The Scottish played there twice in the pool stages. Losing against South Africa 34-16 and recording a narrow win over Samoa 36-33, St. James was also the venue for a pool C game featuring the All-Blacks. New Zealand recorded a 47-9 win over Tonga.