ERC: Heineken Cup talks back on
September 11, 2013
Jonny Wilkinson holds aloft the Heineken Cup following Toulon's triumph last season © Getty Images
European Rugby Cup Ltd has expressed its surprise at Premiership Rugby's claim that discussions intended to save the Heineken Cup had concluded and has insisted all parties remain committed to finding a compromise over the Heineken Cup.
The future of the Heineken Cup was shrouded in doubt on Tuesday when Premiership Rugby released a statement saying that "negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended". They also outlined 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.
But despite the declaration from PRL that it and the LNR would be playing in a new tournament from next season, ERC is adamant that all the unions are still singing off the same hymn sheet and they are keen to find a compromise to the dispute.
An ERC statement released on Wednesday afternoon, read: "Despite recent reports, all parties involved in the formulation of a new ERC Accord, including the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Premiership Rugby, have reaffirmed their commitment to the process. A meeting focused solely on the negotiations will be convened by ERC as soon as practicable."
Representatives from European rugby met in Dublin on Wednesday to continue thrashing out the future of the Heineken Cup and according to the ERC, talks "needed to begin again in earnest."
"Surprise was expressed at the timing and content of yesterday's media announcements by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Premiership Rugby, and representatives of both bodies were invited to explain their positions," the ERC continued. "It was pointed out that there was a range of proposals made by stakeholders, none of which were acceptable to all parties, and it was agreed that the negotiations towards a definitive solution needed to begin again in earnest."
The ERC also sounded a note of caution to Premier Rugby and the LNR over the new proposed Anglo-French tournament, saying: "The Board reiterated that European club competitions must be organised by ERC and that any purported cross-border club tournaments needed the approval both of the IRB, and of the relevant Unions who are shareholders of ERC."
However, the Press Association understands the Premiership Rugby and LNR stance is unchanged and their intention remains to forge ahead with alternative plans.
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