Heineken Cup
Premiership final to be played in February?
ESPN Staff
September 17, 2013
Could the Aviva Premiership final now be played in February? © Getty Images

English club owners are considering moving the Aviva Premiership final to February to enable a new European competition to be played from March to June, according to reports in the Guardian.

Premiership Rugby is still sticking by last week's statement that it and Ligue Nationale de Rugby - the body in charge of the Top 14 - are forming a breakaway European tournament for the 2014-15 season.

The announcement came after months of talks between the six Unions involved in the Heineken Cup with LNR and PRL serving their respective notices to European Rugby Cup Ltd that they will leave the tournament unless certain aspects of the tournament are changed.

Both PRL and LNR hold misgivings over the qualification process, distribution of revenue and the split of votes between the six Unions. As things stand, there will be no Heineken Cup next season unless some compromise can be found.

Various proposals have been put forward but if the Anglo-French breakaway cup becomes a reality, then the teams in the RaboDirect PRO12 will have to decide whether to stick with ERC or join the new club-run tournament.

And according to the Guardian, one proposal being considered is to move the Aviva Premiership to earlier in the season to allow a new tournament to be played between March and June, which could include South African teams from 2015-16 onwards.

"Potentially the Premiership final could be before the Six Nations," a Premiership source told the Guardian. "Then, if you ran a new Heineken Cup with the South Africans involved between March and June, that would be a pretty good competition for four months. You'll hear people not just talking about a new European Cup but a new trans-border competition."

One stumbling block for the new European tournament, could be the need to get Rugby Football Union and International Rugby Board approval for the breakaway cup. But Mark McCafferty, PRL CEO, is optimistic of this not being an issue.

The clubs in the Premiership are currently reaping the rewards of the £152m television rights deal which PRL announced with BT Sport last season. According to a "senior English club figure", this has "changed the whole landscape" in English rugby.

The source told the Guardian: "There are still some people who will say: 'You can't have a cross-border competition without the permission of the French Federation, the RFU and the IRB.' Those people are living in the past.

"What has changed the whole landscape is the BT Sport deal because suddenly the clubs have got their own broadcaster and are bringing their own money into the game. The French will also be selling their equivalent TV rights shortly. The unions can huff and puff as much as they like but the reality is that the unions are not going to stop a competition bringing in £30m to £40m to rugby."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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