Compromise reached for European rugby
April 10, 2014
Peace in our time! This will be the final year of the Heineken Cup © Getty Images
The two-year disagreement over the future of European club rugby has been resolved.
A eight-year deal has been signed by the six unions and representatives from the Welsh regions, the Premiership and Top 14 that will see a new-look European tournament established for the 2014-15 season, a competition that will be governed by a newly formed body named European Professional Club Rugby and will be run from Switzerland.
The new era for European rugby
The flagship tournament, replacing the Heineken Cup, will be the European Rugby Champions Cup which will consist of six teams from the Aviva Premiership, six from the Top 14 and seven from the PRO12. The last place will go to the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed side in the Top 14 and the Premiership.
Below the Champions Cup will be the Challenge Cup, a tournament made up from the other 18 teams and two from a third-tier qualifying competition made up of Italian sides and those from other European countries.
Who is going to qualify
The news brings to an end two years of wrangling over the future of the Heineken Cup. Premiership Rugby's, the body in charge of the Premiership, CEO Mark McCafferty hailed the announcement, saying: "These new club competitions will create top quality sporting drama for our supporters and commercial partners across Europe.
"They deliver a stronger playing format for everyone. We are now entering a new phase of growth in the club game and alongside the three professional leagues, we're confident that the new competitions will go from strength to strength, as well as incorporate new markets over time."
RFU chairman Bill Beaumont praised the role CEO Ian Ritchie had in the talks, saying: "The benefits will be seen far and wide, from the clubs to the supporters, sponsors and everyone who has followed the fabulous mix of high class rugby and good natured rivalry - all played out in many spectacular towns and cities in Europe.
"The RFU, and in particular Ian Ritchie, has invested significant time over the last few months in helping to find a solution to a problem that at one stage looked difficult to solve. We are very pleased that the challenges off the pitch are concluded so we can enjoy the joys of the game on it, creating more unforgettable memories for players and fans alike."
WRU CEO Roger Lewis echoed his sentiments. "Everyone involved in the game, from players through to supporters and sponsors, can start to plan in earnest for the future. There have been many difficult issues to overcome to reach this stage, but the WRU has remained confident that a resolution would be found and today's unanimous confirmation is clearly good for our game.
"A lot of work still lies ahead but everyone involved with Welsh rugby can be assured that we will remain focused and determined to achieve our goals."
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "European rugby fans and the region's top players can now look forward to a strong accord and competition structure that promotes and celebrates the best of the European game."
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