French dismiss talk of breakaway European tournament
September 18, 2012
Powerhouses such as Toulouse draw huge television revenue © PA Photos
The Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), the body responsible for running the Top 14, is adamant it does not support suggestions of a breakaway Anglo-French tournament and it wants any future version of the Heineken Cup to incorporate all six nations.
Representatives from the six major countries are meeting in Dublin to try to resolve the uncertainty over the future of the Heineken Cup. The current format is up for review from the end of next season, and Premiership Rugby has already served notice it wants a complete overhaul of the structure, a move supported in principle by the French clubs.
Premiership Rugby's unilateral TV deal with BT which was announced last week indicated a desire to break away from the existing structure by selling individual club rights to European matches. However, ERC, which administers European rugby, immediately hit back by announcing a conflicting deal of its own with Sky Sports, claiming the BT contract violated IRB regulations .
Those exchanges prompted speculation that the whole structure of European rugby was set to be broken up with the possibility that the English and French clubs could go it alone. But LNR vice president Patrick Wolff made clear that was not what the French sides wanted.
"The English put a lot of pressure on us in the past few months to accept the idea of an alternative Franco-Anglo club competition almost like it was a condition before discussing anything else," Wolff told AFP. "That's not what we wanted to do. Save a catastrophic failure at the negotiations, which I don't think will happen, we want to play with the Celts and with the English.
"For us, there is a product (the European Cup). This product must be improved at the negotiations. We want everything to be resolved by the end of the year. Rugby has no interest in being swept up in uncertainty during two years It is imperative that everyone structures things properly in their own country."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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