The future of European rugby
Italians delay Euro announcement
March 30, 2014
Work on European club rugby's new elite tournament was put on hold over the weekend and will now resume on Monday. It had been expected an announcement would be made earlier this week but delays are believed to have originated with the Italian board.
There is frustration that agreement has been reached in what have been complex negotiations only for the Italians to stall over money even though the news deal is believed to give them an increase in funding.
The Italian board president, Alfredo Gavazzi , is due to hold more talks this week. The Italians have found themselves outflanked after announcing a withdrawal from the Pro12 over funding, leading to a number of the top players joining clubs in other countries. If they cannot agree terms for the new structure then they risk being left out in the cold which would be calamitous for Italian rugby.
Assuming that obstacle is overcome, an announcement will be made as early as possible to declare a ceasefire in the bitter two-year dispute over Europe.
A further delay could be caused by the rugby calendar, however, with the Heineken Cup quarter-finals scheduled to take place next weekend. European rugby chiefs may decide to hold any announcement until the first knockout round is over out of respect to the competition as it nears its conclusion.
A new 20-team format is expected to see six Premiership teams, six clubs from France's Top 14 competition and seven of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides qualify for a competition that would succeed the Heineken Cup. The final place would be decided after a play-off between this season's seventh-placed finishers in the Premiership and Top 14.
Although unconfirmed by either broadcaster, it is widely believed that an agreement to split coverage has been agreed by Sky Sports and BT Sport.
The Six Nations committee is expected to provide the basis of the new governing body, with some existing European Rugby Cup staff retained.
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