Heineken Cup
Irish slam 'deplorable' euro row tactics
ESPN Staff
September 12, 2013

Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive Philip Browne has labelled Premiership Rugby's attempts to force through a re-vamp of the Heineken Cup as 'a deplorable way of doing business'.

The English and French clubs are determined to re-shape Europe's premier club competition and are pushing for an overhaul including a shake-up of the qualification criteria and the distribution of revenue. The Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh sides have so far resisted those calls for change although they insist they are open to negotiation but as things stand, the Heineken Cup will cease to exist at the end of this season.

The debate intensified this week with Premiership Rugby issuing a statement on the eve of the latest meeting of European rugby's stakeholders declaring that talks aimed at finding a resolution had "ended". Premiership Rugby and their Top 14 counterparts in France, Ligue Nationale de Rugby, have also tabled their plans for an Anglo-French competition next season.

European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup, has since issued a statement of their own insisting that dialogue was ongoing and Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis has hinted a compromise may be within reach.

Premiership Rugby has since vowed to push on with their plans for a new tournament with chairman Quentin Smith underlining his organisation's stance in a newspaper column and their willingness to debate the issues in public has attracted the scorn of Browne.

"Generally we, by that I mean the shareholders in ERC, be it Italian, Scottish, Welsh or ourselves, find it a deplorable way of doing business whereby you have these press statements issued the night before a board meeting with threats and ultimatums," Browne told The Irish Times.

"Having said that, this is who we have to do business with, and it's about time we all got down and negotiated properly. We have been accused in the media, by Mark McCafferty and others, of simply stonewalling and not engaging with PRL and LNR, which is a downright lie.

"We have made a number of proposals. We have tried to shift thinking in relation to the competition and we're quite happy to discuss a whole range of issues, financial distribution, meritocracy, competition structures and formats.

"In any negotiation, nobody gets exactly what they want. We know what we would like but we know we're probably not going to get exactly what we would like, but that's the nature of negotiation. Unfortunately that's not the way other parties across the table appear to think."

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