ERC remain hopeful of Heineken Cup peace deal
May 18, 2013
ERC chief executive Derek McGrath remains hopeful of a resolution to the row over the future of the Heineken Cup © Getty Images
Heineken Cup officials have confirmed that talks aimed at ending the row that threatens the future of Europe's premier club competition are 'on-going'.
English and French clubs are pushing for a re-vamp that would see the competition cut from 24 to 20 teams and a shake-up of the qualification process. But their Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian partners are resisting calls for radical change that would deny them as many guaranteed places at Europe's top table and impact on their revenue.
Three stakeholder meetings this season have failed to provide any significant progress on the issue and with no further gatherings scheduled fears have been growing that next season's Heineken Cup would be the last with the current accord set to expire this time next year. Recent reports suggested that secret talks had taken place in the hope of finding an acceptable resolution and European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup have revealed dialogue continues.
"Work is on-going to deliver a blueprint, based firmly on the principles of solidarity and respect for sovereignty, for the future development of European club rugby for the 2014-15 season and beyond," ERC chief executive Derek McGrath wrote in the programme for today's Heineken Cup final showdown between Clermont Auvergne and Toulon.
"This current review involving ERC's key stakeholders takes place at the end of five years of a seven-year cycle and it represents a hugely valuable opportunity to map out the future with confidence."
Reports have suggested that the English and French clubs are prepared to soften their stance on qualification with officials originally demanding that the top six from the Premiership, Top 14 and RaboDirect PRO12 qualify for the competition with the defending champions and the Amlin Challenge Cup holders completing the cast.
A compromise would see the top four in the PRO12 qualify with the other two places determined by nationality to ensure all six countries take part in the competition. McGrath has underlined the ERC's desire to ensure that all nations are represented by highlighting the continued development of Italian rugby through its Heineken Cup participation.
He wrote: "The drive over the past 18 years to develop and strengthen the club game in Europe and bring compelling matches to new audiences has been encapsulated by the event in Italy this season.
"Not alone have Benetton Treviso further enhanced their reputation as a genuine force, particularly on home soil, but the Italian national side achieved its best performance to date in the Six Nations finishing ahead of both France and Ireland."
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