HEINEKEN Cup bosses have promised a “balanced” system of showing Toulouse and Munster fans on the big screens at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium for Saturday’s European rugby showpiece — ruling out a repeat of the controversial scenes which spurred the Irish men to victory in 2006.
Two years ago, images of thousands watching the decider in Limerick’s O’Connell Street were flashed up on massive monitors at the Welsh venue, with many Munster players subsequently referencing the importance of those pictures — and their timing — in their 23-19 win over Biarritz.
Controversially there were no equivalent scenes from the losing outfit which led to outrage in the south of France. The images were from ERC’s host television partners, Sky Sports, whose executive rugby director Martyn Turner has Wexford roots, and were shown worldwide as part of the live television broadcast.
However ERC have said that there will be no repeat of such favouritism in Saturday’s showdown.
Said ERC spokesman John Corcoran: “There are different plans in Limerick and Toulouse to have big screens. There were thousands in Limerick in 2006 and there will be as many if not more there again on Saturday. But in Toulouse they have screens arranged for Place de Capital which is something they have done for the last couple of finals.
“The television broadcasts on Saturday will include images of the fans watching on both big screens in the two countries.”
He stressed that such a strategy will also be in place for any images shown on the Cardiff stadium’s big screen.
“We have talked to Sky Sports about it and it will be balanced — if one crowd scene is displayed, then the other will be displayed.
“It is basically about equality.
“We discussed it with them and are happy that they will offer balance. But that is standard practice in such circumstances.”
Corcoran also confirmed that the roof will be closed for Saturday’s clash, which will be the third time European club rugby’s premier tournament has climaxed at the Millennium Stadium in the past six years.
In previous years the decision on whether or not the giant retractable roof was made on the morning of the game.
However ERC bosses made the decision earlier this month that the mammoth 105m x 80m covering will enclose the 74,500 capacity ground.
“The decision on the roof was made a couple of weeks ago. A number of factors are taken into account. First it removes the weather factor from the equation, which is important for the teams’ planning.
“Secondly it means the broadcasters and other partners can start preparing their plans for the day and finally we have found in the past that a closed roof adds to the atmosphere. I would say looking back and learning from experience, closed roof was very positive from the finals.”
Interest in the final isn’t confined merely to Cardiff, Ireland or France.
“According to our figures this Heineken Cup Final will be shown live in 150 countries on Saturday with an audience of millions. That shows you the strength of the competition and the interest in both Munster and Toulouse worldwide.”
And if you don’t have a ticket for Saturday, then Corcoran suggests that perhaps you should start thinking of next season.
“Tickets for this game are probably the most sought after of all our Heineken Cup Finals since the competition started. It is such an attractive fixture, it has surpassed all expectations.
“We announced on Monday that next year’s Heineken Cup Final will be played in Edinburgh. Since then we’ve sold over 2,000 tickets for that final.”
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