Heineken Cup format talks stall once again

 

Premiership Rugby’s leaking of their proposed compromise, before it was presented at yesterday’s fourth meeting of the ERC Stakeholders in London, has contributed to the deadlock in negotiations for a new Heineken Cup format come the 2014/15 season.

Bruce Craig, owner of Bath rugby club, who represented the English clubs along with the Premiership chief executive, Mick McCafferty, told the Daily Telegraph what they and the French clubs, Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), believe could solve the stand-off.

There are three possible formats being discussed, with the current 24-team tournament rejected by English and French clubs, who proposed a 20-team structure, which includes six French, six English and six Pro12 clubs. The tournament winners would qualify automatically, with the last place going to the Amlin Challenge Cup winner or the club that reaches the Heineken final.

The 20-team idea would mean the top six in the Pro12 qualify automatically, ensuring some nations would eventually not be represented in the top tier of the European game.

“I believe there is a solution whereby the top four [of the Pro 12] would go through to a new primary competition and the next two sides going through would be, for example, the best Scottish and best Italian teams,” Craig was quoted as saying in the Telegraph.

“In terms of a compromise, this allows it to be a true European competition”.

The English and French clubs are also demanding an equal three-way split in profits from European competitions with the Pro12 clubs. They currently share 52 per cent of funding, with the French and English receiving 24 per cent each. They are thus seeking a nine per cent increase.

The third format, tabled by the Pro 12 faction, is a 32-team competition.

Television rights

A shadow lingering over the whole process is Premiership Rugby’s claim to have signed a broadcasting deal with BT Vision worth £152million (€187m), which includes rights for European matches involving English teams.

Despite four stakeholder meetings since September, attended by representatives from every union and domestic league, the ERC independent chairman Pierre Lux was forced to conclude:

“It is extremely disappointing for all involved that we have not yet made sufficient progress towards a new Accord.”

The IRFU’s long stated attitude to European competitions is that they exist to support the international game. This, obviously, is in conflict with how the LNR and Premiership Rugby view the tournaments.

A fifth meeting has not been scheduled but the ERC board will review the consultation process on February 6th.

In attendance yesterday

Jean-Pierre Lux (ERC Chairman)

Derek McGrath (ERC CEO)

Ben Calveley (RFU)

Mark McCafferty (Premiership Rugby)

Bruce Craig (Premiership Rugby)

Michel Palmié (FFR)

Olivier Keraudren (FFR)

René Bouscatel (LNR)

Philip Browne (IRFU)

Peter Boyle (IRFU)

Fabrizio Gaetaniello (FIR)

Orazio Arancio (FIR)

Mark Dodson (SR)

Ian McLauchlan (SR)

Stuart Gallacher (Regional Rugby Wales)

Steve Phillips (WRU)

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