Heineken Cup
Anglo-French clubs agreed on euro format
ESPN Staff
October 26, 2012
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby press briefing, Copthorne Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand, October 14, 2011
Mark McCafferty claims that the English and French clubs are singing off the same hymn sheet © Getty Images

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty is adamant that alliance between England and France is as strong as ever in the wake of more talks regarding the future of the Heineken Cup.

Both the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 Orange clubs have put forward a changed format of the Heineken Cup which would see less clubs from the RaboDirect PRO12 take part in the elite competition. The English and French want to ensure teams from the PRO12 qualify for a 20-team Heineken Cup on merit and for the money to be divided equally between the three leagues.

Talks between the six constituent Unions - England, France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy - ended in stalemate on Wednesday with Premiership Rugby reportedly not invited to the meeting. The French clubs rejected two different counter suggestions to the 20-team format proposed and McCafferty is adamant that any attempts to separate the Anglo-French accord will be fruitless.

"It was a flawed attempt to divide and rule and it failed," McCafferty told the Guardian. "In the short term, the meeting was not helpful in finding a solution that meets most of the needs of all those involved in the two European tournaments.

"It may be that a period of reflection is needed and that, with the autumn internationals coming up, it may be a good idea to postpone the next meeting of the shareholders, which is planned for next Tuesday in Dublin. It is something I will be discussing with our clubs on Friday and I know from the calls I have received that they are very angry at what happened this week."

The Rugby Football Union were at the meeting, represented by chief executive Ian Ritchie and professional rugby director Rob Andrew. The first proposal, according to reports, tabled by the PRO12 was for an expanded single European tournament of 32 teams. It was rejected partly because it would leave the bottom two clubs in the Premiership and Top 14 without continental competition.

The second proposal was for the Heineken Cup to remain at 24 teams but for the Amlin Challenge Cup to be reduced to 16. That was also rejected.

One club source told the Press Association: "If the ERC thought our plan was going to change then they understand now that it is not. The picture is clearer. The way the meeting was done was not helpful but maybe there has been some reverse benefit."

ERC have now held three meetings to discuss the future of European rugby without any progress. The next meeting is scheduled for Dublin on October 30.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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