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Anglo-gallic rebels plan new rugby competition

England's Premiership and France's Top 14 threaten future of European Cup after signalling intention to start up their own rival competition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 5:25pm
 

The organisers of the European Cup promised talks on the future of the tournament following a board meeting in Dublin, saying contentious points would be "on the table".

Tuesday saw England's Premiership clubs reveal plans for an Anglo-French breakaway competition when the agreement governing the running of both the European Cup and the second-tier European Challenge Cup expires at the end of the 2013-14 northern hemisphere season.

Clubs from both the Premiership and France's Top 14 are unhappy with the existing set-up, which sees nearly all leading sides from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy guaranteed European Cup places on grounds of nationality rather than on their positions in their domestic Celtic League.

However, the Premiership's plan did extend an invitation to teams from beyond England and France to join their proposed new event.

The Premiership and the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR) are also unhappy at the way European Cup revenues are divided, with the Premiership and European Rugby Cup (ERC) involved in a row over the ownership of broadcast rights to tournament matches.

But following a meeting in Dublin, ERC said it was prepared to look at all aspects of its events in a bid to reach a new agreement.

"Despite recent reports, all parties involved in the formulation of a new ERC Accord, including the Ligue Nationale de Rugby and Premiership Rugby, have reaffirmed their commitment to the process," the ERC said.

"A meeting focused solely on the negotiations will be convened by ERC as soon as practicable."

The statement added: "The current points of difference, including the share of central revenues, qualification and season dates, would all be on the table".

However, ERC was adamant in its belief that it "must" organise all European club competitions and that any proposed cross-border tournaments would need the approval of both the International Rugby Board (IRB) and of the relevant national unions who are shareholders of ERC.

Meanwhile, ERC expressed "surprise" at the timing and content of Tuesday's announcements by both the LNR and Premiership Rugby.

"It was pointed out that there was a range of proposals made by stakeholders, none of which were acceptable to all parties, and it was agreed that the negotiations towards a definitive solution needed to begin again in earnest," ERC added.

The chairman of English side Saracens, Nigel Wray, said plans for an Anglo-French breakaway should have come as no surprise to anyone.

"It was inevitable, it has to happen," he told ESPN.

"It is a union competition, set up by the unions, fair enough. But it is the clubs taking part in it and it's hugely important to the clubs. We want it to be a club-controlled competition.

"In addition, under the current structure, the two nations - France and England - who provide the vast majority of the revenue are permanently out-voted by the four other nations.

"In that system, you have to leave if you want to change something. And that is what hopefully we are doing. We are setting up our own competition which one hopes the other nations will join. We hope it will have better revenue and will be better run than it is at the moment.

"To me, the one person always neglected in these discussions is the customer. What do they want? They don't want more and more games, they want big games.

"And that applies to everything in life - the big concerts, the big songs, the big sports games. They don't want to see meaningless games. If that is what the customer wants, then that is what you've got to give them."

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said: "If we can't reach an outcome involving all the European clubs, we at least have to set up a competition involving the English and French clubs."

The LNR said its sides would participate in the European Cup from next season only if it also involved English clubs.

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