The future of the Heineken Cup is under discussion at a meeting in London between officials from the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) and representatives of the Premiership clubs today.
French and English clubs have threatened to pull out of the competition if the other nations and European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) do not comply with their proposals for an overhaul of the competition.
The English and French teams want the competition reduced in size by four teams to 20 and they also want the teams coming from the Rabo Direct PRO12 to qualify on merit.
ERC and rugby’s governing bodies in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy have rejected these demands. The situation is further complicated by the £152 million broadcasting deal that Premiership Rugby recently signed with BT Vision. The contract covers all domestic and European action involving English teams.
However, ERC have a contract with Sky Sports that allows the broadcaster exclusive rights to screen both the Heineken and Amlin Cups live. ERC said on Monday that the BT deal was illegal.
The English clubs contend that ERC do not have the power to make a broadcasting deal that involves them beyond 2014. As things stand there is currently no Heineken Cup after the 2013 – 2014 tournament.
Today’s meeting between RFU and the clubs is a regularly scheduled one but the Heineken Cup wrangle is certain to be at the top of the agenda. Those involved in the ERC held a meeting last week to discuss the threat the BT deal poses and the demands made by the French and English. They will meet again in Rome on 8 October but it is likely to be some time before the future of European Rugby becomes clear.