European Rugby
Lux: Premiership Rugby's BT deal 'illegal'
ESPN Staff
September 25, 2012
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux poses with the Heineken Cup prior to the tournament's kick-off on Friday, Pavillon Royal, Paris, France, November 7, 2011
Jean-Pierre Lux has hit out at Premiership Rugby © Getty Images

European Rugby Cup ltd (ERC) has claimed that Premiership Rugby's (PRL) lucrative deal with BT which allows them to screen European matches involving English clubs from 2014 is 'illegal'.

The future of the Heineken Cup is shrouded in doubt with the current format of the competition coming to an end in 2014. PRL and the Ligue de Nationale Rugby - the body in charge of the Top 14 in France - have already served their notice citing an unfair qualification process to the Heineken Cup. PRL is reportedly keen on establishing a new 20-team European Cup with six sides from the Premiership, six from the Top 14, six from the RaboDirect PRO12 alongside the reigning Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup champions.

The six Unions in the Heineken Cup will meet next month in Rome to continue talks regarding the future of the Cup after the last set earlier this month ended in stalemate. But it is PRL's television deal with BT that some fear signifies a breakaway from a pan-European tournament. ERC originally claimed that it violated IRB regulations and their chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has hit out at this announcement - with his organisation putting pen to paper on a deal with rival broadcasters Sky Sports for future broadcasting rights to a European Cup.

"This is shocking because it is illegal," Lux said."The English (delegates at the ERC) did not say anything about how the money from the deal will be shared between the domestic and European competitions and how it will be shared with the other countries' (clubs).

"They opened talks directly with some South African and French clubs. This has hampered the negotiations. It is hard to talk with them. We may have to move on without the English, though I do not want it."

A PRL spokesman rejected Lux's claims. "No formal discussions have taken place with the South Africans," he said. "We have put our proposals to ERC and we look forward to their response.

"We withdrew from the accord in June and ERC has accepted that it cannot include the rights of the English clubs in any other rights deal it does."

Toulouse have already stated that they are keen on staying in a pan-European tournament but their general manager Jean-Marc Lhermet has suggested that there should be a change to the qualification process.

He said: "Is it really appropriate always to have two Italian clubs in the group stage? Is it normal that some teams automatically qualify while others have to fight for their place? I am not sure."

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