Clubs threaten to play during World Cup
August 25, 2014
Leicester fans could yet be watching their side in action next Autumn, despite the World Cup taking place in England © Getty Images
Tension between Premiership Rugby and the RFU could be about to boil over with frustrated clubs threatening to play during next year's World Cup unless a deal can be struck.
Premiership Rugby, angered by the RFU's refusal to consult it over any bid for the World Cup, is demanding a £14m compensation package in return for shutting down the league next Autumn while the tournament is played out.
Suspending play in September and October 2015 would leave England's 12 top-flight clubs without match-day income for five months, with projections suggesting each will lose £1.2m.
The RFU however, has so far failed to meet Premiership Rugby's demands over a compensation package. According to the Rugby Paper, the governing body has offered £6m, but on the condition that players are released for further home Tests - with more money to follow as part of a new agreement between the RFU and clubs due for renewal in 2016.
That offer is likely to fall short of Premiership Rugby's demands, with officials at England's top clubs refusing to be held to ransom over a new post-World Cup deal.
"Until suitable compensation is agreed we should look to play through the World Cup," Leicester Tigers chief executive Simon Cohen said. "There are ongoing talks between Premiership Rugby and the RFU, but the World Cup was an agreement between the IRB and RFU to which weren't a party, so to simply expect us to close down our businesses is simply not acceptable.
"It's like going back to the bad old days of serfdom and everybody is extremely angry that this agreement was entered into with an expectation that we would shut down. So if there isn't going to be adequate compensation, we should play through."
That could jeopardise the staging of the World Cup, with the agreement between the RFU and IRB stating that no elite club rugby will be played during the tournament.
"That's not our problem because both of them entered into an agreement without consulting us in any way, shape or form," Cohen added. "Why should Leicester as a club be concerned about that?
"Presumably the Premiership playing through the World Cup would be a breach of the IRB regulations, but those regulations are almost certainly a restraint of trade and therefore probably unenforceable."
Cohen's words were echoed by another of the Premiership's heavyweight officials, with Saracens chairman Nigel Wray insisting the RFU only has itself to blame.
"Certain terms have been offered that don't seem very attractive to me," Wray said. "The RFU are in a pretty embarrassing position because nobody in any other business would sign a binding contract without having spoken to the other people.
"There is no question that we would ever stop a young man playing for his country in a World Cup, but what the RFU shouldn't do is take advantage of that fact. They should agree proper compensation."
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