Celtic clubs face ‘financial oblivion’ if they don’t play in Rugby Champions Cup
PRL deputy chairman Bruce Craig says new competition will ‘save European rugby’
Bruce Craig says Celtic clubs facing ’financial oblivion’ if they do not sign up to the Rugby Champions Cup. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
The Bath chairman is one of the most vocal proponents of a restructured European Cup competition and has, together with the PRL and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), drafted a structure for a tournament they insist will replace the Heineken Cup next year.
English and French clubs believe the European rugby’s current premier competition does not financially reward them sufficiently and that the qualification process is unfairly tipped in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12 teams.
In conversation with the BBC today, Craig said it is in the interest of the Celtic and Italian clubs to sign up to the league, because failure to do so would have “catastrophic implications”.
“The reality of it is that if the Rugby Champions Cup doesn’t happen, then the Celts will not be playing in a competition and they won’t have those distributions from that competition,” said Craig. “People say the English and French clubs are greedy. The fact is we are losing money.
“In terms of sustainability and the future of the game, this is an opportunity for us to increase revenues into the English and French club game which gives it more viability. The unions should be approving that so there is continuity in English, French and Celtic rugby, because if there isn’t, there would be financial oblivion for the Celtic countries.”
The Rugby Champions Cup needs to be ratified by the International Rugby Board (IRB) and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) if it is to succeed. Both have indicated they do not support the proposed Anglo-French driven competition, while the ERC and Celtic and Italian unions favour mediation on the matter.
The tournament would also legally require sanctioning from the French Minister of Sport.
“If the competition is not approved then that would have absolutely catastrophic implications for Celtic rugby,” Craig added. “Celtic teams would be without significant revenues. The Heineken Cup is finished, it’s over. The Rugby Champions Cup is a way to save European rugby.”
Craig added that, given the choice, all 38 European teams “would probably agree” to join the new competition.
“It’s basically the Celtic Unions that would stop them from participating. Everyone would prefer that we didn’t go down the legal route. We all want a competition that is a fabulous European competition. The reality though is that if there was to be a blockage there are obvious questions around restraint of trade.
“This new Champions Cup would generate in the region of €60 to €70 million minimum, which would actually cut out a big percentage of the English and the French clubs’ losses.”