Heineken Cup
RFU pledge conditional support for clubs
ESPN Staff
September 13, 2013

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has offered its support to the Premiership clubs in the ongoing Heineken Cup row but has stressed its desire to see rugby across Europe 'thrive and grow' in a move that suggests they may not support an alternative Anglo-French competition.

Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing English rugby's leading sides, and their French counterparts, Ligue Nationale de Rugby, are pushing for a number of changes to European rugby's premier club competition and have served notice to leave at the end of the season unless their concerns about the structure of the competition and revenue distribution are addressed.

But their partners from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales have so far resisted those calls for change while former RFU chairman Martyn Thomas has claimed that the English clubs are obliged to play in the Heineken Cup until the end of the 2014-15 and the union could block any plan for a breakaway competition.

Amid increasing speculation, claim and counter-claim, RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has moved quickly to clarify his organisation's stance and offered words of encouragement to the clubs while stressing their apparent preference for an answer including all the existing partners.

"In what are complex and passionate on-going negotiations concerning the future of the European competitions, the RFU is encouraging talks to continue in earnest," said Ritchie.

"We are, and always have been, supportive of the Premiership clubs seeking greater meritocracy across the competitions and appropriate financial distribution. It is also important to ensure that rugby across Europe continues to thrive and grow. In terms of authorising any future competition, it is critical to see all the confirmed details before being able to assess its merits.

"In order to find a successful conclusion, we are urging discussions to be held with an open mind, with a view to compromise on both sides. We will continue to work with urgency behind closed doors to ensure a consensus is reached that will benefit all parties."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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