European competitions
Euro chaos looms as unions commit to Heineken Cup
ESPN Staff
November 21, 2013
Will top English clubs be cut adrift from top-flight European cup rugby? © Getty Images

European rugby could be on course for civil war after the Scottish, Welsh, Irish, French and Italian unions announced their commitment to existing European club competitions after a meeting in Dublin.

Premiership Rugby (PRL) responded by saying those plans remain on track, leaving the situation even more confused. The continuing lack of any action one way or the other by the RFU leaves the situation for English clubs even more confused.

The statement

  • "The competition will be driven by the existing organisation [currently named ERC] which will remain in charge of the centralised sale and management of all commercial rights, amongst other things. Discussions over governance will be pursued in order to optimise the internal functioning of the existing organisation [currently named ERC].

    "The common aim is to move eventually towards the integration of European competitions within an all-encompassing European rugby framework.

    "All five unions believe that it is critical to the interests of the game in Europe that the unions are at the heart of the governance of cross-border club competitions, given that rugby in each country is organised in a pyramidical structure.

    "Clubs, provinces and regional organisations form an integral part of the development of the game throughout this structure, from grassroots to the international game.

    "Cross-border club competitions must not conflict with the development of the sport in Europe by unions, this being in the best interest of players, spectators and the sport in general."

The five unions say they stand "side by side" in driving a European club competition next season under the auspices of European Rugby Cup following talks in Dublin on Thursday. They released a statement to that effect, but there is no indication at this stage of the standpoints of French clubs and Welsh regions, who have already announced they want to be with England's 12 Aviva Premiership clubs in a new Rugby Champions' Cup next term.

In their statement, the five unions - minus the Rugby Football Union which was reportedly snubbed from the talks - said "a European club competition is to take place during the 2014-2015 season following an optimised sporting and economic format with 20 teams, no matter how many countries are involved.

Crucially, there is no indication in the unions' statement tonight which clubs would participate in a union-run European competition.

PRL responded to the unions' position by reconfirming their intent to launch the Rugby Champions Cup highlighting the above points concerning the ambiguity of the teams involved in the union-run tournament.

It added: "As a result, we shall continue to implement the plans under way for the Rugby Champions Cup with the declared participants in time for the 2014-15 season."

The RFU later added: "We are extremely surprised and disappointed not to be involved today. It is right that the outcomes of the mediated meeting held in Dublin on October 24, which resulted in an agreement for a meritocratic tournament and equitable distribution of revenues, have been reaffirmed.

"It has been clear for some time that governance is a central outstanding issue and we remain committed to help facilitate a solution so that a truly pan European competition can continue to thrive for the benefit of players and spectators alike."

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