European Rugby Cup dispute continues
The breakaway English and French clubs have named their new competition
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has hinted that he has been talking to Pro 12 teams interested in joining the new European competition. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Agreement by Canadian lawyer and mediator Graeme Mew to step into the dispute on Friday, and the first of the ERC’s Heineken Cup launches yesterday in France, has not slowed the drive by English and French breakaway clubs to push ahead with their own competition.
The event will be named the Rugby Champions Cup.
The announcement by Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty seemed perfectly timed to outmanoeuvre the ERC, who were in Paris yesterday en masse to start the promotional road show for this season’s European competition, which the Rugby Champions Cup now hopes to replace from next season.
McCafferty also hinted that he has been talking to Pro 12 teams interested in joining the new European competition, which is being driven by Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby.
“The Pro 12 are not aware of any approaches made to clubs by Premier Rugby,” said a Pro 12 official.
The names of non-English and French teams remain confidential but further details concerning format, marketing and financial aspects of the Rugby Champions Cup are expected to be released in October.
McCafferty added that despite the ERC claiming it was shrouded in mystery, the Rugby Football Union know the details of the TV deal struck between premiership clubs and BT, rival broadcaster to holders of the Heineken Cup, BskyB.
“Before we can release more details we need to know over the next few weeks which other teams will be joining the competition,” said McCafferty. “Once we know the final . . . numbers then we settle on the competition formats. Various people have approached us about the possibility of joining and we’ve indicated to them that we’ll keep their names confidential.
“We’ve heard that other people want to be involved in European competitions. That’s why we’ve left the door open and expect it to be more than an Anglo-French competition. Interest has been expressed in at least knowing exactly what will be involved – the format, commercial and financial details as well.”
McCafferty added that he expects Rugby Football Union backing and left the door open for the possibility of a legal challenge if they did not support the wishes of the English clubs.
“We’re asking for the RFU’s support against the background that there will be no ERC competition in which we’re taking part at the end of the season. We need to put in place new competitions,” said McCafferty.
The ERC believe that the willingness of an internationally recognised mediator in Mew is the correct way to proceed, while the English and French clubs feel there is a lack of urgency in scheduling the next round of negotiations for October 23rd in Dublin.