Welsh regions could be invited to join Premiership
December 6, 2013
Mark McCafferty - 'The clubs are seeking a permanent rather than stop-gap solution' © Getty Images
Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has revealed that alternative plans to the Heineken Cup will be drawn up as quickly as possible with speculation rife that an increased Premiership is a viable option.
England's clubs have confirmed they will not take part in European competition next season after reiterating their refusal to participate in a competition run by European Rugby Cup. In a repeat of 1998-99, the decision leaves England's clubs isolated from the rest of Europe from next season.
But there is speculation the Welsh regions, who had previously supported the Anglo-French plan for the Champions' Cup, may be invited to join an expanded Premiership. The four Welsh regions have until the end of the month to reach an agreement with the WRU with one of the core issues their right to participate in cross-border tournaments without its permission. The regions are concerned they will be financially penalised if they sign a new participation agreement with their union and participate in an ERC-run tournament next season.
Another suggestion is that South African provinces could be invited over to participate or even that more sides could be brought up from the Championship.
The absence of European activity from the English fixture list leaves nine weekends to fill and the race is now on to occupy those slots with meaningful action.
McCafferty insists the Premiership clubs, backed by a lucrative broadcasting deal with BT Sport, are seeking a permanent rather than stop-gap solution. "The clubs are financially in a better position next season than they are for 2013-14 season because of our domestic TV deal and other uplifts in revenue we have in place," he said. "Financially 2014-15 has never been an issue. The clubs don't have to focus on short-term solutions, they want a solution for the longer term.
"We have a busy six or seven weeks ahead of us and we'll probably call the clubs back in mid-January to take the next phase of decisions. Some of the possibilities have been speculated on, some haven't. There are options with pluses and minuses."
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