IRB chief warns 'renegades'

2013-10-31 10:40
Bernard Lapasset (Getty)

Paris - World rugby supremo Bernard Lapasset has warned English and French clubs wishing to form a breakaway European club competition that they do not have the right to impose their will on other leagues reluctant to join them.

The 66-year-old Frenchman - president of the International Rugby Board since replacing Irishman Syd Millar in 2008 - has kept his own counsel while the English and French clubs have tried to persuade their counterparts in Wales, Ireland, Italy and Scotland to leave the European Rugby Cup (ERC), who organise the European Cup and Challenge, and join the planned 20-team Champions Cup from next year.

The Welsh provinces were won over by their arguments and agreed last week to join the Champions Cup, whose inception was first announced to great fanfare by English and French clubs in September.

The English and French - whose federation are not in favour of the breakaway - are unhappy with the qualifying system and also the distribution of revenue from the European Cup.

Only the top six in England and France are guaranteed a place in the European Cup, whereas at least 10 Celtic League sides - including both Scottish, both Italians and a minimum of three each from Wales and Ireland - have a free pass into the competition.

The French and the English are also looking to each receive a third of the revenue, with the Celts and the Italians receiving the other third.

Lapasset, who in his time as president has successfully lobbied to get rugby sevens onto the Olympic Games roster in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, said the French and English clubs had been too intransigent in their stance and aggressive in their approach.

"They have gone too far," said Lapasset, speaking in Paris on the sidelines of the draw for the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, which is being hosted by France.

"One league does not have the right to lay down the law in rugby. The rugby world must be governed fairly and with respect for others."

Lapasset, who oversaw a highly successful hosting of the 2007 World Cup during his time as president of the French Federation from 1991 to 2008, called on all parties to 'spend time reflecting on their respective stances' and said now was the time for 'cool heads to prevail'.

He also termed the propositions put forward by the French and English as 'a little over the top.'

Unite not divide

Lapasset said the Champions Cup organisers needed to work harder on the detail before presenting their case to the IRB.

"The British especially jumped too quickly," said Lapasset, referring to the television contract Premiership Rugby (PRL) signed with British Telecom in September last year to cover European competitions, which clashed with the extension of a current deal between ERC and Sky TV announced hours later.

"I believe that there is a need for them to work on the plans and so I am giving them the time to come up with something more constructive which will unite everyone and not be divisive.

"We need to see something much more tangible. Then I will be able to decide. The IRB's time to play a role has not yet arrived. I wish to stand back from the negotiations in order to allow the federations and each club to express themselves."

Lapasset smiled when it was put to him that the English and French clubs appeared extremely confident the IRB would give its blessing to the new competition.

"Such confidence is in the English DNA. I know that the English are extremely lucid behind this confident exterior. They are pragmatic people and know very well what the decision should be."

The PRL and their French counterparts the National Rugby League (LNR) are due to unveil firmer details about the Champions Cup - play-offs for the two final places were mooted last week - while the ERC have invited their stakeholders, the federations and the clubs, to return to the negotiating table with a mediator present.

The Welsh, French and English clubs, though, are likely to boycott the meeting at ERC headquarters in Dublin just as they did the one last week.

Read more on:    irb  |  bernard lapasset  |  rugby

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