Saints Cup clash will provide financial boost for Dons

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DONS are set to be benefit to the tune of five figures after agreeing to allow Northampton Saints to play their Heineken Cup quarter final with Ulster at stadium:mk.

The game - set to be played on Sunday April 10 - is likely to see a record attenance at the stadium and comes 24-hours after Dons hosts Carlisle United in a League One fixture.

A crowd of more than 21,000 is expected, with Ulster expected to sell out their 5,500 allocation and Saints fans set to descend on the city in their droves.

And for Dons there is a financial incentive for staging the tie, with Saints paying a ‘hire fee’ for using the ground, plus anything else the two clubs have agreed.

The match will be Saints’ first home Heineken Cup quarter final since 2000 - the year they went on to win the competition. But as tournament regulations stipulate that all last eight matches must now be played in stadiums with a minimum capacity of 15,000, the Aviva Premiership club had little option but to play the game away from Franklin’s Gardens, which has a capacity of 13,591.

The idea of Saints playing in the city is nothing new - the two clubs struck a deal at the same time last season before Saints were drawn away in the quarter finals. But this season they have been the form team in the competition, winning all six of their pool games on their way to the knockout stage.

All clubs entering the Heineken Cup were required to nominate a home quarter final venue, and stadium:mk was put forward by Saints back in August.

Around 25 per cent of Franklin’s Gardens season ticket holders live in the city and Dons were happy to accommodate them for the day.

Tickets details are expected to be released by Saints in the next few days, and the club is planning a promotional photo shoot in the city in the weeks ahead, with the Heineken Cup itself expected to be shown off at the stadium.

If Saints are triumphant against Ulster, there’s a chance their semi final - against either Perpignan or Toulon - will also be played in the city, with Saints guaranteed home country advantage in the last four.