Structure of English game to be thrashed out this week
April 11, 2000
The opposing sides in the battle over the future structure of the game in England will meet this week to thrash out the future of the sport.
The Rugby Football Union last week endorsed Rob Andrew's blueprint for domestic competition, which includes 12 franchised clubs and a guaranteed income rising to £2.6million per year.
The immediate response of English First Division Rugby, which represents the clubs who will have to fight for their future, was instantly confrontational.
Having digested the RFU report over the weekend, EFDR chief executive Howard Thomas has mellowed his stance.
But Thomas is still sceptical that an agreement will be reached.
"f Brian Baister and Fran Cotton's comments about serious negotiations taking place are correct then we will look forward to them,"said Thomas.
"But if it is a case of discussing a limited agenda then it is going to be hard to reach a positive conclusion."
The main EFDR complaint about the RFU plans is over the seven-man commission set to run the new competition.
It is proposed that a three-man team from both sides of the argument plus a non-rugby connected chairman will form the new body.
However, Thomas feels it will still leave the clubs without enough of a say in their own affairs.
"I am not sure the clubs would view this an improvement on what they have now," said Thomas, who will gather all the clubs together to decide their strategy later this week.
"The commission element has some serious flaws, and my own view is that the clubs will not find this acceptable."
The problem for EFDR is that there are a sizeable group of its members who are likely to side with the RFU if the two sides remain on collision course.
"It is fair to say that some clubs are more sympathetic to the RFU than others, but we have always managed to reach a consensus," said Thomas.
"We have agreed a strategy for the way forward, and the clubs have always given the EFDR board their firm backing."