Lux warns of long-term damage to world rugby
ERC chairman says Anglo-French split from Heineken Cup would be “detrimental” to the world game
European Rugby Cup chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has described the ramifications of a proposed Anglo-French tournament as “detrimental” to the world game.
ERC plans to resume negotiations on October 23rd on a new tournament accord for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions, which would take effect from the 2014-15 season.
Premiership Rugby and its French counterparts Ligue Nationale de Rugby, though, served notice last year of their desire to quit the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup when the existing tournament agreement expires next summer and have repeatedly stressed they will form a new tournament in recent days.
“The ramifications of an Anglo-French breakaway would not only be detrimental to European rugby, but also to the world game,” said Lux, writing in today’s Daily Telegraph. “And it would, in turn, come back to shake the very foundations of the same English clubs who should be entering into genuine negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby.
“The issues of qualification, meritocracy and format of the European Cup can be amended by meaningful negotiating, as the history of the tournament testifies.
“The core of this argument centres on the desire of Premiership Rugby, with the support of vocal club owners, to renege on a legitimate and commercially-sound TV contract — which was signed and approved by the board of ERC — in favour of a deal which they chose to progress outside the agreed ERC policy of central marketing.
“This much-trumpeted deal, the detail of which has not even been shared with the Rugby Football Union, is presumably designed to give Premiership Rugby control of the way revenues are shared out. To my mind, this is the sort of control they crave rather than any tournament format change.
“Since the 2005-06 season, ERC’s revenue has increased by 106 per cent and is projected to be over €52 million for 2013-14.
“Can ERC’s revenues grow in the future, and is there room for the share-out of the funds to change? Yes, of course. During the last accord negotiations, the shareholdings and revenue splits were altered by general agreement.
“Can the format change? Yes. Can the qualification criteria change? Again, yes.
“But any changes to European club rugby can only be made if decision-makers are prepared to engage and to enter into genuine negotiations to find a solution for the benefit of all, including fans and players alike.”
The English RFU, meanwhile, have stated that any new competition must include all European nations but hope a compromise will be reached.
“It’s important for the game as a whole that we get these negotiations settled,” said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie yesterday. “I certainly get that they must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
“The objectives are clear - we want to see a meritocratic competition in Europe, both competitively and in terms of financial distribution. Our clubs are very keen on that.
“Our view as well is that we would seek to achieve a European competition that would involve clubs from Scotland, Wales, France - wherever.
“We must find the right balance of negotiation between those parties because obviously it’s important for our clubs in England and we want to support our clubs in England.
“Is it occasionally fraught, challenging and difficult? All of the above, but that’s what we have to try and get to.
“I don’t minimise the difficulties. There are passionate, strongly-held views on all sides. I am ever the optimist.”