Wray: Anglo-French Cup was 'inevitable'
September 11, 2013
Saracens reached the semi-final stage of the Heineken Cup last season © Getty Images
Saracens chairman Nigel Wray is adamant the newly proposed Anglo-French tournament will be "better run" than the Heineken Cup.
Premiership Rugby announced on Tuesday that after months of negotiations with the body in charge of the Heineken Cup - European Rugby Cup Ltd - that talks were "at an end" and they had put in place plans for a new Anglo-French tournament for the 2014-15 season.
The six constituent Unions of the ERC - Italy, France, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland - have been at loggerheads over the future of the Heineken and the Amlin Challenge Cups with the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 sides serving their notice to ERC in June 2012 saying they would leave the Heineken Cup unless changes were made in its organisation.
Both Premiership Rugby and the corresponding body in charge of the Top 14 - the LNR - have misgivings over the distribution of revenue and the qualification process for the Heineken Cup. In their view both are weighed in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12.
With talks now at an impasse, the Premiership and Top 14 clubs look set to be playing in a different tournament to the Heineken Cup next season and Wray says Tuesday's announcement was "inevitable".
"It has to happen," Wray told ESPN. "It's a Union competition, set up by the Unions, fair enough, their competition. But it's the clubs taking part in it and it's hugely important to the clubs. And we want it to be a club controlled competition. In addition, under the current structure the two nations France and England who provide the vast majority of the revenue are permanently out-voted by the four other nations. In that system, you have to leave if you want to change something.
"And that's hopefully what we're doing. We're setting up our own competition which one hopes the other nations will join. We hope it will have better revenue and will be better run than it is at the moment.
"To me, the one person always neglected in these discussions is the customer. What do they want? They don't want more and more games, they want big games. And that applies to everything in life - the big concerts, the big songs, the big sports games. That's what the customer wants; they don't want to see meaningless games. If that's what the customer wants, then that's what you've got to give them."
PRL CEO Mark McCafferty said on Tuesday the clubs in the PRO12 will have between four to six weeks to decide whether they are joining the breakaway Anglo-French Cup and Wray is hopeful they will become a part of it. Wray added: "Do we want the rest of the nations in it? Of course we do. But it's got to be a competition that more accurately reflects the revenue generated by the various nations.
"The way it's planned, everybody will gain through this. But it will have different revenue sharing and different voting."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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