Paris meeting could prove crucial for future of pan-European rugby
Elephant in room remains television rights and specifically Premiership Rugby’s deal with BT
Treviso (above) followed up the Italian Federations’ threat to pull out of the Rabo Pro12 by declaring their intention to do so at the end of the current season.
A meeting tomorrow in Paris between the various stakeholders in European club rugby, ie the representatives of the Six Nations along with the English and French clubs and Welsh regions, could prove critical in resolving the future of a pan-European tournament.
Encouragingly, key figures from all the stakeholders came together for the first time in many months at the same venue last week. They are understood to have discussed many of the vexed issues in the long-running dispute to save the Heineken Cup or to create an alternative competition, such as governance, commercial rights, financial distribution and meritocratic qualification.
The elephant in the room remains television rights and specifically Premiership Rugby’s deal with British Telecom, in direct opposition to ERC’s new contract with Sky Sports for continuing coverage of the Heineken Cup.
The presumption is that this will have to be discussed at this week’s meeting, and were any sort of progress made on this issue then the prospects for a pan-European tournament would be greatly enhanced.
This in turn would have positive ripple effects for the Rabo Pro12, which as things stand has no title sponsor for next season, not to mention the Welsh regions stated intention not to take part in a Celtic/Italian league but, rather, to take part in an Anglo-Welsh League.
Amidst all the political manoeuvring, Treviso followed up the Italian Federations’ threat to pull out of the Rabo Pro12 by declaring their intention to do so at the end of the current season. A statement on the club’s official website yesterday underlined their decision, which comes “in light of the international situation that further prolongs a decision” on the future of European club rugby.
The brief declaration also cites “the absence of certainty” as a contributory factor.
However, this comes with a proviso, namely a resolution to the uncertainty and the continuing commitment of their Federation to the Pro12, and well-placed Italian sources maintain it a deliberately timed political ploy by Treviso.
Whereas the Federation fund Zebre to the tune of about €7-8 million per annum, Treviso are privately owned and receive about €3 million by their governing body.
The Federation themselves want a revision of their financial contribution to the Pro12, which has seen them pay €3 million to the other three unions for the right to participate in the Pro12, and less than the €1.7/1.8 million which the Welsh, Scottish and Irish Unions want from a new accord.