Premiership rugby insists there’s more to do in European Cup row

‘Progress made’ at two-day Dublin meeting attended by six unions and mediators

Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 20:42

Premiership Rugby has conceded progress was made at Thursday’s ERC meeting in Dublin but insisted there is more to do if agreement on the future of European rugby is to be reached.

Talks in Dublin broke up on Thursday with partial agreement on demands made by top English and French clubs — namely establishing two 20-team European club tournaments from 2014-15 and equitable funding for Aviva Premiership, French Top 14 and RaboDirect PRO12 participants.

The two-day summit, brokered by independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer, was attended by chief executives from all six major European unions, plus European Rugby Cup chief executive Derek McGrath and chairman Jean-Pierre Lux, among others.

Mew and Drymer subsequently issued an upbeat statement confirming the support by consensus for a continuing existence of two European tournaments, each made up of 20 teams, and a possibility of a third-tier event.

That was followed this evening by a Premiership Rugby statement, which read: “Premiership Rugby notes from today’s statement on behalf of independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer that progress has been made on some key issues, although there remain some significant ones which have not yet been addressed.”

Premiership Rugby, Ligue Nationale de Rugby and the four Welsh regions, who this week pledged “full support” to the Rugby Champions Cup, did not attend the Dublin talks.

Premiership clubs’ chief Mark McCafferty today also welcomed elements of the statement from Dublin but took the opportunity to reaffirm total commitment towards establishing a Rugby Champions Cup next season.

“We’ve nailed our colours very firmly to the strategic path we are going down in terms of what we can build, which is the Rugby Champions Cup,” Premiership Rugby chief executive McCafferty said today. “The Welsh have come on board during the course of this week, and we are into implementation mode.

“We have always said that there is no way we are going into any competitions that are run by ERC after the end of this season. That hasn’t changed. We feel a fresh start has got to be made. We already have indications in the marketplace that are very encouraging. It is a competition format that will be strong, fair to everyone and more financially lucrative to everyone.”

Responding to Thursday’s developments in Dublin, McCafferty added: “It seems that the proposals we have made on competition formats and on financial distribution have been accepted. Hopefully, it is a sign that in due course the whole approach we’ve been proposing is bought into. I guess time will tell.

“It is far from complete, but the pieces they have commented on are in line with what we’ve proposed.”

Details of the Rugby Champions Cup look set to be rolled out next month.

“Probably within the course of November, I would very much hope that we can lay out exactly how things are going to work,” McCafferty said.

As far as Premiership Rugby (PRL) and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) are concerned, they will have no involvement in ERC-run competitions from next summer when a two-year notice period that they are currently serving is completed. And while the Dublin gathering addressed the make-up and funding of European competitions, governance and operational issues — primarily who would broadcast a new tournament — look set to dominate the next proposed meeting on November 1.

In their statement, Mew and Drymer said: “The meeting concluded with consensus among those present on two key principles of competition format and distribution of revenues, and with agreement to meet again very shortly. There is consensus that there should continue to be two professional European club rugby tournaments, with each tournament consisting of 20 clubs. A third-tier European tournament should also be considered.

“The primary competition would be made up of 20 clubs, with six each from PRL and the LNR, and seven from the (RaboDirect) PRO12 tournament. The clubs would come through meritocratic qualification from their respective leagues. In the case of the PRO12, there will be at least one club guaranteed from each country.

“In year one, the 20th place would be allocated through a play-off match between the seventh-placed PRL and LNR clubs. For the following years, the 20th club would qualify through a play-off between the seventh-placed PRL and LNR clubs and the two next non-qualified PRO12 clubs.

“The winner of the secondary competition would qualify to participate in the play-off match, if not already qualified by right. The secondary competition would consist of up to 20 clubs, made up of the remaining 18 PRL, LNR and PRO12 clubs. Two places could be allocated to clubs qualifying from a third competition.”

Regarding distribution of money to participants, the statement from the mediators added: “There is also consensus that distributable revenues generated through the competitions would be divided one third, one third, one third per league, with the stipulation that monies to be received by the PRO12 countries would not be less than the current levels.”

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