The future of European rugby
Italians seek answers on new euro deal
Enrico Borra
April 8, 2014
Alfredo Gavazzi wants further clarification before signing away Italy's European future © Getty Images

In recent weeks the row that has disrupted the image of the European rugby has been nearing a compromise. Yet, after almost two years of obstacles being met by further obstacles, there are still further walls to overcome before an agreement can be reached.

An announcement has been in the pipeline since last week but reports suggest the signing of the new deal has been held-up by the Italian Rugby Federation. Italians have been vital to the creation of European club competitions having been one of the founding members of the ERC and the Heineken Cup, back in 1995, and now they want to make sure they won't lose it all.

So, what is holding up the Italians? "First of all there are issues to be solved in the Celtic league area for us and when we settle those we can move forward on to the bigger stage," Alfredo Gavazzi, Italian Rugby Federation president since 2012, told ESPN.

The stakeholders of the PRO12 have reached a new four-year agreement with FIR that will see Italy sit on the board with the same power of its Irish, Scottish and Welsh counterparts but it seems that on the first €20m promised by the new European agreement, FIR would receive just €4.7m, while the other three Unions would get €5.1m.

"Well, that's one of the aspects we need to address quickly", confirmed Gavazzi. "We agreed to equally share the weight of the board so someone should explain to me why we should get less than the other Unions involved in the Celtic League. Italy has two teams in the actual RaboDirect Pro12, the same as Scotland, but we have more representatives in the European competitions so why do we have to receive less than the SRU? That amount should be divided in four equal parts of €5m each in my opinion. We will discuss about that as well as other statutory details that should be rectified to reflect the changes we agreed board-wise".

"We have spent the last two years working on an ideal environment to work and grow the benefit of European rugby for the Unions involved and now we need to make sure that nobody is drinking more water from the same fountain"

So those are the urgent issues that Italian rugby must fix before putting pen to paper to the broader Euro-deal. Italian rugby is in a crucial phase of its growth and Gavazzi is focused on giving Italian rugby the right funding for the next few years.

But then there are other problems that have seldom been highlighted in analysis of the Euro row and the possible rescue of the Heineken Cup. "There are a lot of unanswered questions at the basis of the new Euro agreement," revealed Gavazzi. "Some of those are pretty practical.

"Everybody is talking about the new body based in Switzerland but nobody is looking at the existing one, the ERC. The ERC has obligations in place and those obligations need to be settled before we can start its liquidation.

"There are issues related to employees, on signed commercial agreements and, of course, on the broadcasters front and we must be sure we have reached a settlement on every partners and people involved in the ERC before running another company with the same brief".

Then there's the question of the broadcasting rights, something that is apparently close to being rectified with RFU boss Ian Ritchie playing a key role in organising a compromise between Sky Sports and BT. The deal the English clubs have struck with BT should grant European clubs a lot of money but the Italians want to see the contract before signing a deal. "Well, as a Union involved in the deal I would like to have the chance to finally take a look at the original BT deal struck by the PRL as no one has seen it except the English.

"I've have asked formally but I still have to receive a response on the matter. It's really a shame because I strongly believe it would be important for the future to establish a climate of transparent trust between all parts.

"You know, we have spent the last two years working on an ideal environment to work and grow the benefit of European rugby for the Unions involved and now we need to make sure that nobody is drinking more water from the same fountain".

One thing is certain. No announcement will be made this week over the future of European rugby. On Friday morning there is a meeting between the PRO12 unions and the Italians have notified they will be available to meet the other European representatives from Monday April 14.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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