Toulouse lend support to Heineken Cup
September 24, 2012
Toulouse have lifted the Heineken Cup on four occasions © Getty Images
Toulouse president Rene Bouscatel has confirmed that his side will stay in the Heineken Cup in whatever format the tournament takes come the 2014-15 season.
The future of the tournament is being hotly debated at the moment with all six Unions meeting in Dublin last week to thrash out a compromise regarding England and France's misgivings over the qualification process for the prestigious competition.
Both parties believe entry to the Heineken Cup is too heavily weighted in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides and they want the format changed so that the tournament is reduced to 20 teams - six from the Aviva Premiership, six from the Top 14, six from the PRO12 alongside the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup winners.
English and French clubs have served their notice to the ERC with the current format of the Heineken Cup coming to an end in 2014. And Patrick Wolff, vice president of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) - the body in charge of the Top 14, revealed that Premiership Rugby (PRL) approached him to propose a breakaway Anglo-French tournament. He rejected this notion and Bouscatel has backed up the LNR's support for a pan-European competition when he told the Rugby Paper that his team will "stay in the Heineken Cup".
With PRL opting to sell its European television rights to BT Vision, there were some fears that their option to break away from the collective Sky Sports deal sounded a death knell for the competition. And the PRL came under increased scrutiny at the meeting last week with some parties believing that the English clubs are keen on teeing up an Anglo-South African tournament as an alternative to the Heineken Cup.
"It was a straight question: 'Have you been talking to teams in South Africa?'" a source told the Rugby Paper. "Mark [McCafferty, CEO of PRL] refused to answer. We understand they have been in discussions with South African teams.
"We have been aware over the last month or so that McCafferty and other senior PRL figures were down there for three weeks. We've been led to believe that during that time they met more than one of the South African provinces."
But PRL insist this is wide of the mark. "Premiership Rugby's sole focus is on getting three new European competitions and creating stronger European rugby not only for all the nations currently involved, but for developing nations as well," said a Premiership Rugby spokesman. "Hypothetical speculation will not help drive European Rugby to new heights.
"Premiership Rugby is trying to achieve a merit based competition with equal qualification from all three leagues the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and RaboDirect Pro 14, because that is the best solution for the whole of European rugby. The huge BT deal puts 152m into European rugby, and creates the commercial framework to create some wonderful European competitions."
The six Unions will now meet in Rome next month to continue talks and the ERC is adamant that a pan-European tournament will exist in the 2014-15 season regardless of whether English clubs are participating or not.
"Nobody wants that to happen but we will go ahead without them if necessary," an ERC official is quoted as telling the Rugby Paper. "They can stay out and do their own thing if they wish but they've been told in no uncertain terms they have no European rights to sell."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry
Are the margins between the teams in the Six Nations getting smaller year-on-year? Huw Richards gives some answers
Martin Gillingham looks at the state of play in the Top 14 and gives his take on the club versus country battle harming the prospects of the French side
Manu Tuilagi, Cockerill's psychological warfare and Saracens' brute strength - it is the Monday Maul