The Millennium Stadium will host the 16th Heineken Cup final on the weekend of 21/22 May, 2011 – announced ERC, the Heineken Cup organisers, at the iconic venue’s Cardiff Arms Cafe Bar today.

The WRU won the bid to host the world’s biggest club rugby final, which will return to the Welsh capital for the sixth time in 16 seasons.

However, at the very beginning of European club rugby 15 years ago, Cardiff hosted the first two Heineken Cup finals, when French clubs, Toulouse and Brive, won the coveted trophy at the old National Ground, Cardiff Arms Park.

The magnificent Millennium Stadium was built to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup on the same site as the Arms Park, and has since hosted three more European finals.

Leicester Tigers became the first team to complete back-to-back Heineken Cup triumphs when they beat Munster in 2002, in front of a then tournament and stadium record crowd of 74,600, however, the Irish side returned to Cardiff to beat French opposition and raise the trophy in 2006 and 2008.

"We are delighted to be coming back to Cardiff for the 2011 Heineken Cup final. It is a city that has fully embraced the Heineken Cup ever since our first season when the home team reached the inaugural final," said ERC Chief Executive, Derek McGrath.

“We have already staged five hugely successful finals in the Welsh capital and it will be exciting for all the clubs in the tournament to be aiming to play at the magnificent home of Welsh rugby.

Following on from the successful partnership model adopted for the Cardiff 2006 and 2008 finals, ERC will be working in partnership with the WRU, Millennium Stadium plc, Welsh Assembly Government and Cardiff City Council to create a truly memorable Heineken Cup final occasion with a sell-out crowd.

WRU Group Chief Executive, Roger Lewis, welcomed the news stating: "The decision to stage the 2011 Heineken Cup final in the Millennium Stadium is a great honour for Wales and for Welsh rugby.

“This event will bring tens of thousands of visiting fans into our capital and create a truly carnival atmosphere for a game which is certain to be a sell-out.

“The three finals staged at the Millennium Stadium in recent years have generated more than £50 million for the Welsh economy and the event has had a hugely beneficial financial impact on the Welsh nation.

"The Heineken Cup is now the most successful and important club rugby competition in the world game and boasts a truly international following. The tournament has captured the imagination of all true sports fans and continues to grow and develop at an impressive pace.

"All our Regions have strong links with the Heineken Cup and this announcement will give our competing Welsh teams an extra incentive to reach the final in 2011. The WRU is proud to be part of the history of this great competition and we are determined to help the ERC deliver a fantastic event in 2011."

Tickets for the Cardiff 2011 Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium went on pre-sale today, Monday, 17 May, to subscribers and tickets will be released to the general public on Saturday, 22 May. 

The Cardiff Heineken Cup Finals
• The 16th Heineken Cup final will be played at the Millennium Stadium on the weekend of 21 / 22 May, 2011.
• It will be the sixth tournament final played in the Welsh capital.
• The first two Heineken Cup finals were played at the old Cardiff Arms Park with the Millennium Stadium hosting three of the last eight finals.
• The 2006 Heineken Cup between Munster and Biarritz Olympique at the Millennium Stadium had an economic impact of over £25 million on the Welsh economy. Research produced by the Welsh Economy Research Unit reported that Cardiff had benefited by £17.7 million and the rest of Wales by £7.4 million. The report stated that the 2006 final was "the most important single day event at the stadium to date in terms of spectator impact."
• The 74,600 fans at the 2002 final between Leicester Tigers and Munster was a then tournament attendance record.
• The five finals have been watched by 287,015 fans.
• Both of Munster’s Heineken Cup final triumphs have come at the Millennium Stadium – as well as one of their two defeats. • Teams from France, Ireland and England have tasted Heineken Cup glory in Cardiff – Toulouse, Brive, Munster and Leicester Tigers all collecting the coveted cup in the city.
• The first final between Toulouse and Cardiff was watched by a crowd of 21,800. A year later that almost doubled to 41,664 when Brive clashed with Leicester Tigers.
• The five previous Cardiff finals have produced an extra-time final, when Toulouse pipped Cardiff 21-18 in 1996, with four of the matches ending with just a single score separating the sides.
• The 19-points by which Brive beat Leicester Tigers in the 1997 Heineken Cup final is the tournament final record margin of victory.
• The five Cardiff finals have produced 171 points and 13 tries – the four scored by Brive in the 1996 final a team tournament record.
• French teams have appeared in four of the five Heineken Cup finals staged in Cardiff. Toulouse and Brive won in 996 and 1997, while Biarritz Olympique and Toulouse lost in 2006 and 2008.
• The 14 Heineken Cup finals have been staged at six grounds – Cardiff Arms Park /Millennium Stadium (1996, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 2008), Stade Lescure (1998), Lansdowne Road (1999 and 2003), Twickenham (2000, 2004 and 2007), Parc des Princes (2001) and Murrayfield (2005 and 2009).
• The 16th Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in just over 12 months time will be the 1,135th tournament match.