Heineken Cup
Players throw support beind euro re-vamp
ESPN Staff
September 15, 2013
Rugby Players' Association chief executive Damian Hopley, RPA Press Conference, Regal House, Twickenham, England, November 25, 2011
RPA boss Damian Hopley has thrown his support behind Premiership Rugby's push for change © PA Photos

Premiership Rugby's bid to force through changes to the European club rugby landscape have received a significant boost with the Rugby Players' Association throwing their support behind the plan.

This season's Heineken Cup is set to be the last unless stakeholders can reach an agreement on the future structure of the competition and the distribution of revenue. Specifically they believe the qualification criteria that guarantees places to a certain number of the Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh sides and the level of funding provided to the PRO12 is unfair.

Frustrated at the lack of progress since serving notice to leave the competition last year, the English and French clubs tabled plans for an Anglo-French tournament that they insist would also be open to their European partners.

European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup, responded by insisting that talks were still ongoing while it has also been suggested that the new tournament would not get the required sign-off from the Rugby Football Union who have requested further details about the plan.

"The status quo is unacceptable," RPA chief executive Damian Hopley told The Sunday Telegraph. "From a playing perspective it is about creating the best European competitions and that means both the Heineken and the Amlin. We want to ensure that players from all 12 clubs are playing in the optimum competitions, which is not the case at the moment."

The clubs themselves have also reiterated their stance with Bath owner Bruce Craig issuing a warning to the RFU. "The game needs European rugby," he wrote in their latest matchday programme. "There is no viable proposal made by any other party over the last 12 months of negotiation, and the Unions' position has become more entrenched for the status quo.

"The English and French clubs are taking the lead to save European rugby by proposing new competitions open to all existing participants. They are fair and meritocratic, and would certainly be in the public's interest.

"If the Unions in the coming weeks do not approve the competitions, through regulatory process, it will no doubt destroy European rugby and have catastrophic financial implications for Celtic and Italian rugby. The hour is grave, and I sincerely hope the English and French proposals are taken seriously and that we can all enjoy fabulous exciting European rugby in the future."

Meanwhile, Gloucester chairman Ryan Walkinshaw has ruled out any further talks with ERC. "There is no chance of that," he said. "They're not listening to us."

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