English and French clubs accused of a 'lack of respect'
September 23, 2013
Representatives from the French club pose with the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup at the season launch in Paris © Inpho
European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has accused the leading English and French clubs of a lack of respect in their quest to force changes to the Heineken Cup.
Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing the leading English clubs, and their French counterparts, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), confirmed earlier this month that they plan to form a new cross-border competition for the 2014-15 season having failed to negotiate changes to the structure of the Heineken Cup and also the qualification criteria and the distribution of revenue.
ERC, the organiser of both the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup, has scheduled a fresh round of negotiations for October 23 and have appointed an independent mediator in a bid to find a suitable compromise but the English and French clubs have no interest in dealing with the union-dominated ERC and are determined to push on with their own plans for what will be called the Rugby Champions Cup.
Any new tournament will require the approval of the respective unions and while Premiership Rugby remain confident of attracting the support of the Rugby Football Union, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) have signalled their intent to block an non-ERC endorsed competition.
Speaking at the launch of this season's Heineken Cup in Paris, Lux slammed the conduct of the clubs in recent weeks and has questioned the European aspect of Premiership Rugby's £152m broadcast rights deal with BT Sport that it is said will provide all competing clubs with a cash windfall.
"The FFR has now officially reminded the LNR that no international game involving French clubs can take place without the advance permission of the FFR. And the RFU has a similar position regarding Premiership Rugby," said Lux.
He added: "The recent media releases from the LNR and Premiership Rugby lacked respect. In June, the LNR committed to the principle of central marketing for ERC's tournaments which has been the at the heart of European club rugby's commercial success.
"While this process began in 2012, ERC met with the parties during the summer with the exception of Premiership Rugby who refused to engage. They have never entered into negotiations. This impasse is essentially because Premiership Rugby want to renege on a binding commercial deal in favour of their questionable TV contract with BT.
"I sincerely hope that people reflect on the current problems. We have another opportunity for everyone to finally engage with the process with the meeting on 23 and 24 October with the IRB-recommended mediator, Graeme Mew. I hope we will be able to reach an agreement .
"It would be disastrous to deprive so many players and fans of the opportunity of participating in such an outstanding tournament."
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