ERC breakaway on the cards?

2013-09-10 20:00
Heineken Cup (File)
London - French and English clubs have threatened to break away from European Club Rugby (ERC) and create their own competition from next season amid an ongoing row surrounding the current set-up of the European Cup.

Clubs from France's Top 14 and England's Premiership have been unhappy with the existing format which sees almost all clubs from Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy guaranteed places in the European Cup regardless of where they finish in the Celtic league.

However, the agreement over the existing competition format comes to an end at the conclusion of this season and the two most powerful European leagues have declared their intention to either alter the European Cup's format or create a new tournament.

The Premiership released a statement on Tuesday saying that they had proposed, along with their French counterparts, a 20-team competition to replace the current 24-team format, "based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league."

Meanwhile, the French game's ruling body, the LNR, issued a statement reiterating their intention to only participate in the European Cup from next season if English sides also agreed to take part.

"Despite multiple meetings between the countries over the last year, the LNR and the Top 14 clubs cannot fail to notice the failure of the negotiations over a new agreement," said the LNR.

"Considering the seriousness and the urgency of the situation, the Top 14 clubs wish to reiterate that they will only participate in competitions which also involve English clubs."

Statements from the Premiership and the LNR confirmed that clubs on both sides of the Channel have asked for "immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014/15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries."

Talks over a new deal to safeguard the future of the European Cup have so far failed to reach agreement on the structure of the tournament and commercial arrangements for it.

English and French clubs want to reduce not only the number of participating teams, but specifically the number of Celtic League teams guaranteed automatic entry.

They complain that Celtic League teams have an unfair advantage as they can rest players before European Cup matches, knowing full well they are not risking their participation in the following season.

This season, only one Celtic League team, Wales's Newport Gwent Dragons, failed to qualify for the European Cup. It means the continent's top club competition is made up of 11 Celtic League teams, seven from France and six from England.

The English and French want to establish a more even distribution of places across the three leagues.

Adding further fuel to the dispute is a row over television rights to ERC's leading competition.

ERC have a deal in place with Sky Sports while Premiership Rugby sold the rights for those games played by their clubs from next season to BT Vision, a new channel launched recently in the United Kingdom.

ERC considers the new deal to be "illegal", insisting that only they can negotiate broadcast rights for the competition.

Furthermore, they recently extended their contract with Sky Sports until 2018.

Read more on:    erc  |  heineken cup  |  rugby

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