ERC call on French and English clubs to enter ‘genuine and decisive negotiations’

War of words intensifies over new deal for European rugby

Peter Wheeler leaving the ERC meeting at the  Westbury Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Peter Wheeler leaving the ERC meeting at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

The war of words between ERC and the English and French clubs over the future structure of European competitions intensified on Friday, with the ERC releasing a terse statement calling for all shareholders “to cease public ultimatums and to enter into genuine and decisive negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby”.

Earlier in the day Leicester executive director and Premiership Rugby’s board member at ERC Peter Wheeler said he was puzzled by the contents of the statement released by ERC on Wednesday following a meeting at the Westbury Hotel in Dublin.

ERC suggested that during a meeting of directors in Dublin a common ground had been established with the English and French clubs, who had announced they would set up their own European competition, over the future of the Heineken Cup.

Among the attendees were Wheeler, representative of the Premiership clubs, and his counterpart at France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby Rene Bouscatel.

The ERC statement was headlined “all parties reaffirm commitment to ERC negotiations”, but Wheeler left Ireland with a different perspective on the talks.

“In support of the personal statement made yesterday by Rene Bouscatel, I too was surprised by the press statement issued after the meeting on September 11 of the board of ERC, of which I am a member,” Wheeler said.

“I would make the following points about the content of this statement.

“No decision was made by the ERC board to reiterate that European club rugby competitions must necessarily be organised by ERC.

“Secondly, concerning the proposal of some of this board to organise a meeting of the stakeholders, it is the sole right of the individual parties (unions and league organisations) to take a view on any such proposal.”

Responding to comments from both Wheeler and Bouscatel, ERC released the following statement on Friday evening from chief executive Derek McGrath and independent chairman Jean Pierre Lux.

It read: “Together we confirm that it was agreed at last Wednesday’s Board meeting in Dublin, that ERC, as a signatory to the current Accord, should be involved in all future negotiations aimed at the formulation of a new Accord for the 2014/15 season and beyond.

“To that end, the Board requested that ERC should convene the next, and future, meetings, and that it should consider the appointment of a mediator to move the negotiations forward towards a successful resolution. This process is now under way.

“The Board further agreed that bearing in mind the commitments the company has already entered into, no other structure other than ERC would be appropriate to organise European tournaments going forward.

“We believe it is now time for ERC’s shareholders to cease public ultimatums and to enter into genuine and decisive negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby.

“A date for the next Accord meeting will be announced shortly.”