Euro talks edge nearer resolution
October 10, 2012
The future of the Heineken Cup is still up in the air following the latest meeting of stakeholders © PA Photos
The row over the future of the Heineken Cup appeared to edge a little nearer a resolution during talks between European rugby's stakeholders in Rome on Monday.
Premiership Rugby (PRL), the umbrella body for English rugby's leading clubs, and their French counterparts, the Ligue de Nationale Rugby (LNR), sparked a period of re-negotiation earlier this year by serving notice to leave the competition at the end of the current accord that expires at the end of the 2013-14 season. Both parties believe that qualification for the competition is weighted in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides and are also seeking changes to the distribution of income.
The dialogue between the various governing bodies - the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR), the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), Scottish Rugby, Regional Rugby Wales, LNR, PRL and European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup - intensified in the wake of PRL's announcement of a 'ground-breaking' broadcast deal with BT Vision that includes rights to European games played by English clubs from the 2014-15 season. ERC have since announced an extension to their own exclusive broadcast deal with Sky Sports that conflicts with the terms of the BT Vision deal.
Initial talks in Dublin last month aimed at resolving the issue were labelled "productive" but there was no agreement. The latest meeting also failed to produce a resolution but progress appears to have been made while the threat of a permanent split and a breakaway tournament now appears to have receded.
"The meeting featured six hours of comprehensive discussion on a broad range of issues raised by stakeholders including the structure and format of the European club rugby tournaments," ERC said in a statement. "All parties reaffirmed their desire to see European club rugby's tournaments continue to grow and develop further and to involve all of the current participant stakeholders."
PRL are pushing for a re-vamp that will reduce the number of teams from 24 to 20 and see the top six sides from the Aviva Premiership, the Top 14 and the PRO12 qualify along with the defending champions and the winners of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Currently English and French clubs have to qualify for the Heineken Cup through their league position while Scottish and Italian teams are given a place by right with the three Welsh and three Irish sides with the best finishing position in the PRO12 also guaranteed a place in the following season's competition.
The next meeting is scheduled for Dublin on October 30 and in the meantime "the stakeholders have agreed that there will be limited comment outside of the process."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton