RFU set for talks with Premiership Rugby
September 25, 2012
RFU chairman Bill Beaumont has offered to mediate in the row over the future of European club rugby © Getty Images
The row over the future of the Heineken Cup is set to dominate talks between the Rugby Football Union officials and representatives of the Aviva Premiership on Wednesday.
England's leading clubs and their French counterparts are pushing for a re-vamp of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup and triggered what is set to be an intense period of re-negotiation with their European partners by serving notice to leave the competitions at the end of the current agreement that expires at the end of next season.
Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body for English rugby's leading sides, is demanding an overhaul that includes a shake-up to distribution of revenue and changes to the qualification set-up that they insist favours RaboDirect PRO12 sides. They turned up the heat yet further by recently striking a "ground-breaking" broadcast deal for domestic and European games with BT but they have since said that part of the £152m windfall will be shared with their European neighbours.
European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC), the organisers of the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, labelled that deal "illegal" and has also signed an extension to their own broadcast partnership with Sky Sports that clearly conflicts with the BT deal. Talks between the warring parties in Dublin last week ended in stalemate with another meeting scheduled for Rome on October 8.
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has since re-iterated his organisation's stance with a strongly-worded attack on Premiership Rugby while the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), representing France's leading clubs have expressed their preference to remain part of pan-European competition rather than form any kind of breakaway tournament.
The RFU initially appeared to indicate that Premiership Rugby's deal with BT went against the long-term agreement struck between the two to govern the elite game in England. But they appeared to soften their stance last week when RFU chairman Bill Beaumont called for all parties to reach an amicable agreement while offering to act as a mediator.
The meeting between the RFU and Premiership Rugby representatives has not been called to discuss the European issue specifically but it is sure to dominate proceedings with English rugby's governing body set to seek more details about the broadcast deal they admit took them by surprise.
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