European Cup under threat


NEXT SEASON'S European Cup is in imminent danger of falling apart and could shortly be swept aside by a new Anglo-French competition involving the top eight clubs from each country.

English and French clubs are angry about the veil of secrecy European Rugby Cup Limited, the company that administers the competition, has drawn over its financial dealings with sponsors and television.

The widening gulf caused by the emergence of the Anglo-French alliance threatens to leave the Welsh, Irish and Scots out in the cold.

Both the English and the French present the "high-handed" way the other home union representatives ignored their demand for a 16-club European Cup and endorsed the continued participation of Scottish district and Irish provincial sides. The Anglo-French clubs were also out-voted when they complained the tournament would involve too many fixtures of doubtful competitive value.

The organising body has not published any accounts or details of its sponsorship agreements with Heineken and the other companies. Some clubs believe they have not received the full monies due to them from this season's tournament.

However, the English RFU, having formed a new company with the leading English clubs called English Rugby Partnership (ERP), will urge them to support a wide-ranging cosmopolitan tournament that includes Italy and possibly Romania. "I believe it would be short sighted to break away from the Welsh, Scots and Irish, especially when the European Cup looks capable of improvement as a tournament," said Colin Herridge the RFU treasurer yesterday.