Toulon owner says club will compete in next season’s Heineken Cup
Mourad Boudjellal breaks ranks with Top 14 clubs over foreign player restrictions
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal celebrates their victory in last season’s Heineken Cup final against Clermont. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images.
Boudjellal’s comments come in the context of a dispute with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) concerning foreign players, but nonetheless signal the current European champions’ will break ranks from the clubs’ governing body, which has signalled its intent to form a breakaway tournament with Premiership Rugby.
The LNR recently announced plans to impose increased restrictions on the number of foreign players in the clubs’ squads, with a staggered reduction on the number of non-JIFF players (Joueurs Issus des Filières de Formation), eventually reaching a target of 12 in each match-day squad by 2017. Failure to meet this target could apparently result in a reduction in TV rights and marketing payments from the LNR.
To qualify, a player must spend three seasons in a French club’s academy between the ages of 16 and 21. Many Top 14 clubs have resorted to signing younger players, particularly from the Polynesian islands, and nationalising them at a younger age.
Boudjellal has described the LNR’s rulings as “abject, reactionary and racist” and vowed his club will not support the governing body’s plans to form the Rugby Champions Cup next season.
He told La Provence his club “will take part in the 2014-’15 Heineken Cup, as the ERC does not demand quotas on foreign players, contrary to the Ligue Nationale, who bear their name well.”