European Rugby Cup chief executive Derek McGrath is confident that an agreement can be reached to save the Heineken Cup and avert a potential Anglo-French breakaway tournament.
European Rugby’s premier competition has been thrown into disarray after English and French clubs served notice of their intention to leave ERC-run events.
The powerhouses of European Rugby have also invited Celtic league and Italian teams to join them in their own Rugby Champions Cup next season.
However despite the English club’s already securing a deal with BT Sports for their proposed competition McGrath still feels there is time to negotiate a deal to save the Heineken Cup.
“I take a huge amount of hope. The last few days we have heard coaches and players from a number of countries say how much this competition means” said McGrath
“I’m really looking forward to the competition kicking off because once people remind themselves what this competition means to the fans and players, that’s when people I believe will change the conversation and realise this is too good to lose.”
“The arrival of an unapproved BT deal before we began our negotiations has undoubtedly had a serious impact on the ability to get people to engage and develop trust,” he said.
“There have been many challenges over the years in terms of trying to find a negotiated position and I’m very confident we can find agreements that will provide the best outcome for everybody.
“There is a responsibility on everybody, irrespective of the positions people have, because it’s not ERC plus the clubs.
“The clubs are part of ERC so they have an obligation to take on their wider responsibilities to European competition and the fans, players and sponsors.”
Despite English clubs already announcing that they will not be attending the ERC meeting on 23-24 October McGrath insists there is work in the background to resolve the stand off.
“We brought in a mediator now in order to find consensus and respect the fact there is a wide distance between the positions,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get that process of engagement going along. Clearly there is a lot of concern around the game, at IRB level and all of the unions, both in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, so there is going to be a lot of engagement there.
“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity to try and find format resolutions and financial distribution models that might work, and then hopefully we can begin to work through the detail.”
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