European rugby split
Celtic unions demand more World Cup cash
ESPN Staff
October 15, 2013
Wales and their Celtic associates want to know what their European future holds © PA Photos

Less than 24 hours after it was reported the Welsh clubs were going to demand a bigger share of the spoils from the breakaway Champions Cup as a price for their joining, it has emerged that the Celtic unions are asking for a greater share of revenue from the World Cup should talks over the future of European rugby collapse.

A rock and a hard place

  • Although the RFU has publicly not shown its hand in the discussions about the breakaway Champions Cup behind the scenes RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has effectively become the key man in the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

    Ritchie would have enough on his plate without this, but he finds himself having to take part in a series of meetings between the various factions in a bid to find a mutually acceptable resolution.

    The RFU does not want to alienate the Aviva Premiership clubs but equally it cannot risk falling out with the other boards.

    The more public mediation talks set to take place next, arranged by ERC, the Heineken Cup organisers, are likely to be stillborn because the English and French clubs have made clear they have no intention of attending.

The three unions - Wales, Scotland and Ireland - fear they will lose significant income should the breakaway happen and are looking to make good the shortfall by demanding more income from the World Cup.

"If Europe isn't solved with a fair solution for the Celtic countries the World Cup will have to be looked at from the point of view of the money it generates," a source told the Times. "We would have to do this otherwise the game in Ireland, Wales and Scotland would cease to exist. Ultimately this is about the survival of rugby in the Celtic unions. This is not an idle threat. It is a 'needs must' position."

While English and French clubs have already committed to the Champions Cup, those from the Celtic countries as well as Italy have yet to do so as they wait to see how the situation develops in the coming weeks.

Although there is no question of the countries boycotting the World Cup, the stance does highlight the growing concern over the future financing of the game. The European competitions have given them greater financial security, so the uncertainty as to what will happen beyond this season is of great concern to them.

To add to the confusion, the RFU has yet to take any position regarding the breakaway tournament, preferring to try to negotiate behind the scenes. With pressure growing from the Celtic unions, that position cannot continue for much longer.

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