With the Saints setting stadiumMK’s current record attendance – 22,220 at the Heineken Cup game against Munster in January 2012 – England Rugby 2015 (ER2015) has asked the club to help test the venue with a full rugby match day ahead of it hosting three Rugby World Cup 2015 matches.
Following the recent completion of the second tier, stadiumMK has been expanded up to 30,500 and the ‘Best of English’ match between the 2014 Aviva Premiership finalists is an opportunity to test the match day operations with a large rugby audience.
The game will be played on Saturday, April 25th, 2015 and will give the East Midlands the opportunity to celebrate St George’s Day in style, with a full programme of entertainment during the afternoon.
stadiumMK is no stranger to top-level rugby union, with the Saints making the short journey down the M1 for three Heineken Cup matches in 2011 and 2012 and the December 2012 thriller against Saracens.
Many of the club’s supporters live and work in Milton Keynes, and Saints chief executive Allan Robson says that the game against Saracens can kick start a big year of rugby in the area.
“Having a successful Rugby World Cup will benefit the growth of English rugby as a whole, and by working to ensure that stadiumMK is ready to host matches we will also be helping to develop the sport in our region,” he said.
“We carefully weighed up the pros and cons of moving the game, but in the end the board of directors made a unanimous decision because we believe that it is in the longer-term interests of all parties.
“We’ll be working with ER2015, Milton Keynes Council and the stadiumMK management to ensure that the match is a success and entrenching the Saints’ place as the Aviva Premiership club for Milton Keynes, which in the future will bring more people to Northampton once Franklin’s Gardens has been expanded and we have completed our £6 million development of the new Barwell Stand.
“The game will also generate additional income which can be re-invested back into the club, notably the playing effort, to help keep us at the top of English and European club rugby.
“We’ve played at stadiumMK on a number of occasions now and know that it is a great rugby venue, especially when it is filled to capacity, and are looking forward to seeing the stands packed with our supporters.”
The game is part of the 2014/15 Saints Season Ticket package, and Season Ticket Holders will have comparable seats to those they have at Franklin’s Gardens, along with free coach travel to Milton Keynes on the day of the game.
General ticket sales will be handled by Ticketmaster, with details to be announced in due course.
Northampton Borough Council leader Cllr David Mackintosh said that he understood why the decision had been made.
“Obviously we would all prefer for the Saints to be playing a match like this at Franklins Gardens, but their involvement in the Rugby World Cup is great for them and great for rugby in our town,” he commented.
“This administration has been very supportive of the Saints, and we are proud of their achievements and contribution to Northampton. I hope that now we have helped them to expand their stadium we will see more high profile games played at Franklin’s Gardens in the future.”
England Rugby 2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans thanked the club for agreeing to move the game to Milton Keynes.
“Testing is an important part of our preparations for the Tournament and this fixture will help us fine tune our plans for the three Rugby World Cup 2015 matches that will be hosted at stadiumMK,” she said.
“I would like to thank Northampton Saints for agreeing to move this fixture and I have no doubt that their supporters will make this a memorable occasion, playing their part in getting us ready to welcome the world next year.”
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