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European Rugby
"Dazzling" new euro tournament in the pipeline
ESPN Staff
September 13, 2012

BT Vision chief executive Marc Watson has promised a "dazzling" new European tournament as part of the £152m broadcast deal struck with Premiership Rugby.

Under the terms of what has been hailed as a 'ground-breaking' agreement, BT will have exclusive rights to show Aviva Premiership Rugby and the J.P Morgan Asset Management Sevens from 2013-14 onwards and also any games played in Europe by Premiership clubs for three years starting from the 2014-15 season at the end of the current participation agreement governing the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup.

The European element to the deal has been called into question by euro rugby chiefs and vehemently defended by Premiership Rugby, with the future of the club game beyond the end of next season still unclear.

The structure of both competitions are currently being reviewed by European Rugby Cup Ltd following a threat from Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts to pull out of the competition and go it alone if concerns about the qualification process, that they suggest favours RaboDirect PRO12 clubs, were not addressed.

Premiership Rugby's bold step to strike a deal incorporating European rugby underlines the serious nature of their desire to force through change with BT Vision clearly determined to support their bid to re-shape the landscape.

"We saw in rugby an opportunity to own a sport exclusively, certainly at club level, and the rights that we've bought give us an opportunity to do that," chief executive Marc Watson told SportsPro magazine.

"We have the English Premiership; we think there's lots of great potential there. And we are looking to set up, or at least help set up, a dazzling new European tournament, with a fantastic new format, with, we hope, all the best clubs. And we've secured, from the English Premiership, the rights to that for the UK. That tournament will be the successor to the Heineken Cup, which is a very successful tournament.

"The Heineken Cup runs until the end of next season. Our English Premiership rights kick in at the same time as our Premier League football rights next August. The Heineken Cup under its current contract has another season to run and that will be the end of it, and we're looking to set up a brand new tournament from then. And we've already secured the rights to that.

"We see a great opportunity there. We're hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2015 in the UK. It's a great opportunity in the two years running up to that, we think, to grow the sport and for the first time rugby will appear in the Olympics in Rio in 2016. It's a sport that's got a long way to go. We were attracted by the idea of growing with it, and helping it to grow in the UK."

All ERC stakeholders are scheduled to convene in Dublin next Tuesday to begin the formulation of a new Shareholder Agreement for the 2014-15 season and beyond with Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty quick to deflect any criticism of his organisation's bold step with the claim the BT deal will benefit the European game as a whole while another source insisting the windfall "will be put into the pot" and shared.

"We believe we are delivering a deal which provides significantly more money for all sides in all countries, so we expect them to be positive about it," he said. "We are producing a large new investor in rugby, for the good of everyone in the European game, so we would be surprised if there wasn't a positive response."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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