Unions to meet in Dublin to draw up plans for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup
Competitions will not include English clubs
FFR president Pierre Camou is resolute in his determination that the Heineken Cup will continue under the auspices of the ERC.
In another significant development regarding the ongoing impasses over the future of European club rugby, representatives from the French, Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian unions will meet in Dublin on Thursday in an attempt to break the current logjam, and to that end will begin drawing up plans for a Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup without the English clubs.
This followed a meeting between representatives of the French Federation (FFR) and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) in Marcoussis last week to continue discussions regarding a new accord for player release, television rights and so forth. The FFR President Pierre Camou apparently began the meeting by warning the LNR that no new accord will be agreed until such time as the clubs cease talking about joining the Rugby Champions Cup – the breakaway tournament proposed by Premiership Rugby (PRL) – and resolve the future of European competitions. With that, Camou walked out of the room to leave Serge Blanco to chair the meeting.
Having offered the French clubs €2 million apiece for participating in next season’s Heineken Cup, it is understood that Camou has also given the French clubs until early December to return to the ERC fold or else he will begin exploring other means of entering French teams through central contracting with the FFR.
Under French government law, the French clubs cannot join a cross-border competition without the approval of the FFR and IRB, and Camou’s stance has been consistent from the word go.
When representatives of the six respective founding Unions and Federations of the Heineken Cup conceded to the demands of the English and French clubs at ERC mediation talks on October 24th in Dublin regarding a 20-team tournament format, meritocratic qualification and funding for the Heineken Cup, it was widely if wrongly perceived as a climbdown.
However, the compromises on all of the above came with a hardening of resolve amongst the Unions and Federations that there would be no climbdown on governance of the game and specifically a pan-European tournament. In this they have been backed by the IRB President Bernard Lapasset.
According to yesterday’s Midi Olimpique, the French clubs are now less unified than when the proposed Rugby Champions Cup was first officially announced in September.
It also suggested that several Top 14 presidents have been looking for more information on the FFR’s position re Europe, and are ready to change tack with a view to competing in a European Cup organised by ERC. It also noted LNR has yet to host its proposed press conference in early November outlining plans for the Champions Cup, and that the LNR has been backed into a corner.
Nor do Camou’s actions constitute mere grandstanding. Camou is resolute in his determination that the Heineken Cup will continue under the auspices of the ERC. Furthermore, his insistence that the French remain on board the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup is not purely out of loyalty to the ERC, but a steadfast belief that the Unions and Federations, along with the IRB, maintain governance of the game rather than a new breed of club owner in England and France. Camou, the respective Unions and the ERC board are adamant they will adhere to the Sky TV deal.