The fight for the future of European club rugby competitions intensified this week with the groups representing English and French clubs, Premiership Rugby and LNR, announcing plans for a new European rugby competition as an alternative to the ERC’s Heineken Cup.
English and French clubs have already served notice that this would quit the current version of the European Cup unless changes were made with regards to division of TV money and qualification requirements.
The new competitions will have 20 teams each and different qualification requirements essentially ending the automatic qualification to the Heineken Cup for teams from the current participating nations. The biggest losers in this new deal will be the already struggling Scottish and Italian teams. The English Premiership has already signed a new £152 million deal with BT which gives access to European matches featuring English clubs which compromises the deal the ERC has signed with Sky.
The options facing the non English and French teams are to boycott the new tournament and to not play the English and French teams at international level opening the 6 Nations up to other teams such as Romania and Georgia. Moves such as these would surely further entrench parties and make compromise even more difficult.
The argument coming from the RaboDirect teams is that the European Cup should be as inclusive as possible so as to develop the game further in weaker nations. The only way, according to the RaboDirect Pro12 is by having automatic qualification. If rugby wants to expand beyond its traditional bases then it must make an effort to be as inclusive as possible. Ultimately it is the game itself and the fans who will lose out if a compromise is not reached.
Response from ERC independent Chairman, Jean-Pierre Lux, and ERC Chief Executive, Derek McGrath, to recent media statements made by Peter Wheeler and René Bouscatel who attended the 11 September ERC Board meeting as ERC directors
“Together we confirm that it was agreed at last Wednesday’s Board meeting in Dublin, that ERC, as a signatory to the current Accord, should be involved in all future negotiations aimed at the formulation of a new Accord for the 2014/15 season and beyond.
“To that end, the Board requested that ERC should convene the next, and future, meetings, and that it should consider the appointment of a mediator to move the negotiations forward towards a successful resolution. This process is now under way.
“The Board further agreed that bearing in mind the commitments the company has already entered into, no other structure other than ERC would be appropriate to organise European tournaments going forward.
“We believe it is now time for ERC’s shareholders to cease public ultimatums and to enter into genuine and decisive negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby.
“A date for the next Accord meeting will be announced shortly.”
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