Celtic and Italian clubs won’t join any new competition
But representatives tell ERC meeting they’re open to compromise with English and French clubs
Peter Wheeler, representing Premiership Rugby, leaving after yesterday’s ERC stakeholders meeting in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The Celtic and Italian representatives at yesterday’s ERC Board meeting made it clear to their Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby counterparts they will not take part in any new cross-border competitions proposed by the English and French clubs.
They re-affirmed their willingness to compromise on agreements regarding financial share-outs, meritocracy and tournament format to save the Heineken Cup in future negotiations between stakeholders, which all present agreed should be resumed as a matter of urgency.
This followed the statements by both PRL and LNR the day before in which the former’s chief executive, Mark McCafferty, declared negotiations within the ERC framework “have now ended” and augmented a statement by the LNR outlining proposals for a cross-border competition featuring English and French clubs.
Yet representatives from the LNR and PRL, René Bouscatel and Peter Wheeler, took their places at yesterday’s scheduled board meeting, after which an ERC statement said:
“All parties involved in the formulation of a new ERC Accord, including the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Premiership Rugby, have reaffirmed their commitment to the process. A meeting focused solely on the negotiations will be convened by ERC as soon as practicable”.
It was agreed the ERC would facilitate such discussions, in which “the current points of difference, including the share of central revenues, qualification and season dates, would all be on the table”
Noting any new competition would need approval by the IRB “and of the relevant Unions who are shareholders of ERC”, the statement expressed surprise at the timing and content of Tuesday’s LNR/PRL double whammy, on foot of which “representatives of both bodies were invited to explain their positions”.
Reflecting the acute frustration with the tactics employed by the English and French clubs, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne last night told The Irish Times:
“Generally we, by that I mean the shareholders in ERC, be it Italian, Scottish, Welsh or ourselves, find it a deplorable way of doing business whereby you have these press statements issued the night before a board meeting with threats and ultimatums.
“Having said that, this is who we have to do business with, and it’s about time we all got down and negotiated properly. We have been accused in the media, by Mark McCafferty and others, of simply stonewalling and not engaging with PRL and LNR, which is a downright lie.
“We have made a number of proposals. We have tried to shift thinking in relation to the competition and we’re quite happy to discuss a whole range of issues, financial distribution, meritocracy, competition structures and formats.
“In any negotiation, nobody gets exactly what they want. We know what we would like but we know we’re probably not going to get exactly what we would like, but that’s the nature of negotiation. Unfortunately that’s not the way other parties across the table appear to think.”
‘Lack of understanding’
What added to Browne’s frustration was, he said, the lack of understanding within the English club game “as to what exactly is going on”.