Agreement over breakaway European tournament still a good way off
Despite English reports that deal is almost done, little sign of resolution over succesor to Heineken Cup
It seems nigh-on impossible that the FFR (Federation Francaise de Rugby) president, Pierre Camou, would have relented in his unwavering declarations that his federation would not sanction a European Cup organised by anyone other than the ERC.
Reports in today’s English media that agreement has been reached between the six main European unions and federations, and the Anglo-French clubs, regarding the latter’s proposed Rugby Champions Cup appear very premature.
Indeed, far from a new accord being reached between the various unions and club bodies, there appears little immediate sign of a resolution to the impasse regarding the future of a pan-European tournament involving all six countries.
According to the Guardian, the fine details of a new European tournament to replace the Heineken Cup are almost complete, with negotiations likely to be concluded early next month by all parties bar the two rival broadcasters, BT Sport and Sky.
Maintaining that the Rugby Champions Cup, proposed by the English clubs’ umbrella group Premiership Rugby and backed by their French counterparts, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, will feature teams from all six countries, the newspaper claimed that a further announcement is expected within the next ten days, and that details regarding the governance of a 20-team tournament, no longer run by ERC, are “virtually done”.
An unnamed club insider was quoted as saying: “Within the next week or so we should pretty much have certainty about what the event is. From a player, supporter and coach point of view there’ll be little difference but the financial distribution will be much fairer.”
Yet it’s hard to credit that the Celtic and Italian Unions have agreed to come on board the PRL/LNR driven breakaway competition, and IRFU sources are adamant that this is not the case. It would also seem nigh-on impossible that the FFR (Federation Francaise de Rugby) president, Pierre Camou, would have relented in his unwavering declarations that his federation would not sanction a European Cup organised by anyone other than the ERC, much less a breakaway competition driven by the English and Welsh clubs. Camou has been repeatedly on record in stating this. Nor has there ever been any hint of him wavering, even if he has become increasingly isolated from the French Top 14 club owners.
Every player and club in France is licensed to play rugby through the French Federation. In some respects therefore, Camou’s stance is almost a slam dunk, and it seems unfathomable that Camou would have engaged in, much less agreed, to the fine details of the proposed Rugby Champions Cup.
This would also be at odds with the agreement reached at two days of ERC-organised mediation talks in Dublin last week attended by leading representatives of the various unions, as well as the ERC.
In their statement of last week which outlined their agreed proposals regarding competition format and distribution of revenues, the ERC appointed mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer also stated: “All parties agreed to meet with us again within the next 10 days to discuss the implementation of these principles together with important operational and management issues.”
Sources have confirmed that there has been no deviation from that and that the representatives of the aforementioned Unions and Federations, are to renew mediation talks regarding tournament governance imminently.
They have not, in the meantime, agreed upon all bar the vexed issue of TV rights for the tournament, although the Guardian club insider did concede that while rugby is a small player in the context of the Sky/BT broadband war, “there could still be a protracted legal battle over who broadcasts the event.”