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European Rugby
McCafferty bullish over TV deal
ESPN Staff
September 15, 2012

Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty claims that there will be a more "open-minded" response to the new television deal, that has caused uproar around Europe, once more details are revealed.

McCafferty and other representatives from the Premiership will journey to Dublin next week for an ERC meeting that concerns the future of the Heineken Cup. Premiership Rugby announced on Wednesday a new television deal with BT Vision that includes rights to the Aviva Premiership from next season and also rights to screen live European games involving England's top sides from the start of the 2014-15 season.

This section of the announcement provoked the ERC - who manage the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup - to claim that the deal had breached International Rugby Board regulations. The Rugby Football Union has since revealed that they did not give Premiership Rugby consent to grant European broadcasting rights to BT which has casted doubt over the new deal.

But McCafferty is adamant that the new partnership will find support once it has been fully disclosed. "Once people see what is in there then obviously they will have to make choices," he said. "I think a little time will need to pass before people get through this period, which I will suggest is quite an emotional reaction, understandably.

"But when people do get beyond that and realise there is a new partner that is bringing a lot of money into the game, then I think people might respond a bit more open-mindedly to it. Time will tell on that. I understand people will get upset, but once we've got through that and realise we've got a major new deal that can be of assistance to everyone, hopefully people will accept it a bit more.

"We had a very attractive proposition from BT that is bringing a major new partner to the game with a cheque for £150m. That was a pretty compelling proposal when you come to see the details behind that as well.

"That was the offer we chose to go with. There are quite a number of things in the BT deal people might not necessarily be aware of that we will unveil over the next few weeks."

English and French clubs have already served notice to the ERC regarding the existing tournament accord that expires in 2014. And McCafferty added: "The context everyone has to remember is that there is no European competition after 2014 for anyone because notice has been served on the accord so there is a vacuum in 2014.

"We are trying to decide - everyone is trying to decide - what should replace it. Whichever way, there will be new competitions after 2014. We've just got to decide on the format of those and come to an agreement or not on how that should all work. That's what negotiations are all starting on now.

"From within the financial terms of the (BT Vision) deal, it covers our domestic rugby but also covers to right to our games in any future European competition, so there are going to be values attached to that. Those values we are not keeping to ourselves.

"Those values we are putting into a European pot which will presumably also include whatever future deals the French clubs do. That pot will then be a better pot for people in Europe. Rather than people arguing over how to divide up the current cake, we have made the cake bigger and hopefully that will facilitate a financial conversation that will be interesting for everyone."

McCafferty has also revealed that he is keen on pursuing a new structure for European rugby that includes three tiers. The top two is understood to feature the current teams in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup while a third would include sides from emerging nations such as Russia and Portugal. And he reiterated Premiership Rugby's long-standing view that qualification for the top two competitions should be merit-based.

"Broadly speaking, we think the new versions of those from 2014 will be 20 teams in each and qualification for that top level will be based on merit and not country allocation," he said. "With all due respect to everyone, there will be clubs from France and clubs from England who will be in the second tournament.

"Our clubs accept that if they have not qualified for the top tournament they will have to play in the second competition. In terms of teams from the RaboDirect PRO12, that is equally applicable.

"Our preference, or the proposals we have made, is that it would be the top six from each of the three leagues (Premiership, French Top 14 and RaboDirect), plus the two winners of the competitions from the previous season. You can see on all fronts it's a merit-based qualification, which is not the case currently."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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