Euro chiefs to lead re-structuring talks
June 15, 2012
ERC chief executive Derek McGrath is set to liaise with European rugby's stakeholders © Getty Images
European rugby chiefs have bowed to growing pressure and agreed to a review of the structure and format of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Fédération Francaise de Rugby (FFR), the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Premiership Rugby have all recently served notice on ERC in a bid to force a re-vamp of the club rugby landscape. That threat to Europe's premier club competition, that could have seen the leading English and French clubs split from their continental neighbours when the current Shareholder Agreement expires in two season's time, appears to have had the desired effect with ERC confirming that they have started a consultation process on the future of both competitions.
It is understood that neither Premiership Rugby nor the LNR would like to leave the Heineken Cup but want to reduce the number of clubs in the competition from 24 to 20 with the top six from their leagues and the RaboDirect PRO12 plus the defending champions and the Amlin Challenge Cup winners qualifying for the competition. However, they are likely to face fierce resistance from the PRO12 sides from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy who stand to lose most under the proposals.
An ERC statement released today revealed that ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux and chief executive Derek McGrath will "make the necessary contacts in preparation for a series of meetings with representatives of all stakeholders from the six participant countries which will begin in September."
The ERC are determined to lead the review that they insist is, "a natural progression following applications from the Fédération Francaise de Rugby, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby and Premiership Rugby for a renegotiation of the ERC Shareholder Agreement."
The current agreement, which was signed by all stakeholders in 2007, includes a provision for parties to seek a renegotiation, while the structure and format of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup remain in place for a further two years until the end of the 2013-14 season.
The stakeholders that are set to be consulted are the union and club bodies which have representation on the ERC Board: the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby, the Fédération Française de Rugby, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Federazione Italiana Rugby, the Scottish Rugby Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales.
Any proposed changes to the Heineken Cup, that generated over €50m in revenue in 2010-11, are likely to require the approval of the ERC board that appears heavily weighted in the favour of the PRO12 clubs.
Rob Andrew (RFU) and Peter Wheeler (Premiership Rugby) represent England on the board while their French counterparts are Michel Palmié (FFR) and René Bouscatel (LNR). In opposition are set to be Ireland's Philip Browne (IRFU) and Peter Boyle (IRFU), Italy's Fabrizio Gaetaniello (FIR) and Orazio Arancio (FIR), Scotland's Ian McLauchlan (SRU), Mark Dodson (SRU) and Wales' Roger Lewis (WRU) and Stuart Gallacher (RRW).
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.