America to host Aviva Premiership matches?
August 4, 2013
Could the Leicester Tigers play a game in America? It could happen... © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Tom has confirmed discussions have taken place between Premiership Rugby (PRL) and four American franchises over the possibility of taking the English domestic game to the USA.
With the future of the Heineken Cup still uncertain, PRL is looking at alternative options. The English and French clubs have served notice to leave both the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup after this season unless the tournament structure and commercial arrangements are re-vamped. The PRO12 sides have so far refused to concede any ground on either issue.
Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing English rugby's top clubs, and their French counterparts Ligue Nationale de Rugby want the Heineken Cup reduced to a 20-team tournament - from the current 24-team format - and a change to the qualification system that they believe favours the PRO12 teams by guaranteeing places regardless of league position at the end of the season.
Adding further fuel to the dispute is a row over the TV rights to European club rugby's premier competition. ERC has a deal in place with current broadcast partner Sky Sports while Premiership Rugby have sold the rights to those games played by their club to BT Vision.
The ERC is adamant that a compromise can be reached but Tom has revealed that trans-Atlantic discussions have occurred as English clubs look for other potential options. The four franchises chosen by PRL, according to the Rugby Paper, are: Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots.
"I can confirm that we have had quite serious discussions with a number of American football owners," Tom told the Rugby Paper. "We are keen to look into the practicality of playing some rugby matches in their stadia.
"Can we create interest in the game in another continent? For example, could London Irish play a St. Patrick's Day fixture in Boston? Some people are looking at the creation of a world club championship. I'm not saying that Leicester will be playing Harlequins at the Washington Red Skins but anything's possible.
"How much of this is for real, how much is pie in the sky, who knows? All sorts of options are being explored. The discussions with the American football owners will go on."
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