/ Heineken Cup 2013-14

/ News

European Rugby
'There has to be a Heineken Cup next season'
ESPN Staff
September 9, 2013
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson and Joe van Niekerk lift the Heineken Cup, Clermont Auvergne v Toulon, Heineken Cup Final, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, May 18, 2013
Will this season's Heineken Cup be the last? © Getty Images

Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis has made a fresh plea to the Aviva Premiership clubs to save the Heineken Cup from possible extinction.

This season's battle for European club rugby supremacy could be the last if a row over the future structure of the competition and revenue distribution is not resolved in the coming months. The leading English clubs and their French counterparts have vowed to quit both the Heineken Cup and the second tier Amlin Challenge Cup after this season if their proposals for a re-vamp are not accepted but so far the PRO12 sides have refused to concede any ground on either issue.

The English and French clubs want to see the Heineken Cup reduced from a 24 to a 20-team competition and also a change to the qualification criteria that they insist favours the PRO12 by guaranteeing places to the Scottish and Italian sides regardless of their league position at the end of the season and to three out of the four Welsh and Irish teams.

The intensity of the row increased following the Premiership club's decision to incorporate European games in their recently-signed £152m broadcast rights deal with BT. European Rugby Cup Ltd, the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup competitions, have a long-term broadcast partnership with Sky Sports that they recently extended.

A succession of meetings over the last year between European rugby's stakeholders have failed to break the deadlock but Lewis remains hopeful of a peace deal with the latest summit scheduled for this week. "There has to be a European Cup next season. It's too good to lose," he told the Western Mail.

"I was in Dublin last Monday. I met with the chief executive (Derek McGrath) of ERC and I was in London last Wednesday, where I met with some of the broadcasters involved in the European Cup.

"We have got to make sure it happens and we have got to say to the English clubs that you have got to step up and come to the table, and negotiate properly to come up with a solution because this issue, this problem has been created by the England ... and England has got to come and sort it."

Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body representing the English clubs, recently conceded they were no nearer to agreeing a deal having received, "no proposals (from ERC Ltd) other than the status quo." More recently, Nigel Wray, the chairman of Premiership side Saracens, revealed that he does not expect the English clubs to be playing in any European competition next season.

ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has also urged the English clubs to provide further details of their contentious deal with BT. "It's deadlocked," he told The Rugby Paper. "The English and French have made proposals which do not have the approval of other countries. There are added problems with the English who signed a unilateral contrast for the Premiership and the Heineken Cup with BT...The English club are hiding behind a contract, the details of which nobody has seen."

Another source reportedly close to proceedings hinted that the English clubs could find themselves isolated next season. "The French clubs (Ligue National de Rugby) have an entirely different relationship with their Union (Fédération Française de Rugby) to PRL (Premiership Rugby Ltd) and the RFU (Rugby Football Union)," they told the newspaper.

"LNR cannot do anything without the FFR's backing and the FFR have no intention of allowing their clubs to pulls out of European competitions....Could the Heineken Cup go ahead without the English? Certainly."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Rugby

    Disallowed tries hurt Force in loss

    Two disallowed tries ensured the Western Force ended their South African tour winless with the Sharks securing a 15-9 Super Rugby victory at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday

  • Rugby

    Larkham to bring 'awesome' input for Wallabies: Cheika

    Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is looking forward to Stephen Larkham's "awesome" input as they join forces officially for the first time to plot an unprecedented third Australian Rugby World Cup triumph

  • Rugby

    Handre Pollard kicks Bulls into seventh place

    Bulls five-eighth Handre Pollard became the first Super Rugby player past the 100-point mark this season as his team defeated the Crusaders 31-19 in Pretoria

  • Rugby

    Waratahs facing brutal schedule

    The NSW Waratahs are steeling themselves for a brutal schedule that could require playing for 13 straight weeks to retain their Super Rugby crown

  • Rugby

    Blues can still make Super finals: Kirwan

    A believer in sporting miracles, Sir John Kirwan hasn't given up on his beleaguered Blues making the Super Rugby finals despite their none-from-six start to the season

  • Football

    A Klose call

    Miroslav Klose scored goals in the World Cup final tournaments of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Has anyone else scored World Cup goals 12 years apart?

  • Formula 1

    F1 cost cutting: Not putting money where the mouth is

    Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...

  • Formula One

    Tough at the top

    Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • News
  • Features

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income