European heavyweights meet in Dublin
September 18, 2012
The current format of the Heineken Cup comes to an end in time for the 2014-15 season © PA Photos
The European powerhouses meet in Dublin today to thrash out the future of the Heineken Cup amid the furore surrounding Premiership Rugby's television deal with BT Vision.
Despite Sky Sports tying up a contract with the ERC for the four years following the 2013-14 season for the rights to the Heineken Cup, PRL (Premiership Rugby Ltd) announced last week that they had signed a deal with BT Vision which gave the broadcaster the rights to the England club's games in Europe. This has since sparked a war between the two parties but PRL will sit out down with their European counterparts today to attempt to find some middle ground.
The current structure of the tournament comes to an end at the culmination of the 2013-14 season and there are fears that Premiership Rugby's announcement that they are taking charge of their own television rights has effectively sounded a 'death knell' for the future of the tournament. The ERC claimed at the time that their breakaway television deal was not in line with IRB regulations and former RFU chief Martyn Thomas claims that it also breaches the existing agreement between clubs and the RFU.
"It stipulates the clubs must play in the two European competitions up to and including 2015-16," he told BBC Sport. "If they go ahead with this breakaway they could be liable for a legal challenge and have to pay substantial damages."
This view, referring back to a deal brokered in 2007, was seemingly backed up by the RFU who claimed that they had not granted the PRL permission to sell their own television rights.
PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty, though, said on Saturday: "The context everyone has to remember is that there is no European competition after 2014 for anyone because notice has been served on the accord so there is a vacuum in 2014. We are trying to decide - everyone is trying to decide - what should replace it. Whichever way, there will be new competitions after 2014."
McCafferty - along with Bath owner Bruce Craig and the RFU's Rob Andrew - will attend the meeting today and they seem to have the backing of their Premiership counterparts. McCafferty has previously spoken of the deal benefitting the whole of the European landscape and not just the Premiership and this seems to be backed up by Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy.
Kennedy said: "We're absolutely 100% committed to this and feel that we have a very robust legal position to approach this as we have done. Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right, sometimes you have to be strong. We want harmony, for it to be win-win for everybody. There's sound commercial logic underpinning all this."
Those attending the meeting are: Jean-Pierre Lux (ERC chairman), Derek McGrath (ERC chief executive), Rob Andrew (RFU), Mark McCafferty (Premiership Rugby), Bruce Craig (Premiership Rugby), Michel Palmié (FFR), Olivier Keraudren (FFR), Patrick Wolff (LNR), René Bouscatel (LNR), Philip Browne (IRFU), Peter Boyle (IRFU), Fabrizio Gaetaniello (FIR), Orazio Arancio (FIR), Mark Dodson (SR), Ian McLauchlan (SR), Steve Phillips (WRU), Stuart Gallacher (RRW)
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