Anglo-French Cup 'detrimental' to European rugby
September 18, 2013
Toulon are the reigning Heineken Cup champions © Getty Images
Independent chairman of European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) Jean-Pierre Lux has claimed the proposed breakaway Anglo-French tournament would be "detrimental to European Rugby".
Premiership Rugby (PRL) and its French counterparts Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) have put in place plans for a club-run European tournament next season and intend to pull out of the Union-run Heineken Cup. This standpoint was confirmed by a statement in which they said negotiations with ERC over the future of the Heineken Cup were at an end and they see their future away from the organisation.
ERC has since reiterated that the differences in opinion are not "insurmountable" and they hope discussions can happen behind closed doors rather than through the raft of statements over the future of the Heineken Cup. PRL and LNR, however, show no signs of budging and seem intent on pushing forward with their breakaway tournament.
However, in Lux's view, European rugby would suffer if this came to fruition. Lux wrote in the Telegraph: "The ramifications of an Anglo-French breakaway would not only be detrimental to European rugby, but also to the world game, and would in turn come back to shake the very foundations of the same English clubs who should be entering into genuine negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby.
"The issues of qualification, meritocracy and format of the European Cup can be amended by meaningful negotiating, as the history of the tournament testifies."
Both PRL and LNR served their notices to ERC in June 2012 saying they would leave the Heineken Cup unless certain aspects of the tournament were changed. They have misgivings over the distribution of votes and revenue and the qualification process with all three aspects, in their view, weighted in favour of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides.
But Lux claims these public misgivings are a smokescreen for their real gripe, the desire to broker their own television rights away from the previously ERC-controlled aspect of the Heineken Cup. PRL has already signed a bumper £152million deal with BT Sport for the television rights to the 12 clubs in the Aviva Premiership, a contract which includes with domestic and European games, and Lux claims this is the real reason behind their desire to pull away from the ERC.
Lux added: "The core of this argument centres on the desire of Premiership Rugby, with the support of vocal club owners, to renege on a legitimate and commercially sound TV contract - which was signed and approved by the board of ERC - in favour of a deal which they chose to progress outside the agreed ERC policy of central marketing.
"This much-trumpeted deal, the detail of which has not even been shared with the Rugby Football Union, is presumably designed to give Premiership Rugby control of the way revenues are shared out. To my mind, this is the sort of control they crave rather than any tournament format change.
"And Quentin Smith's offensive suggestion that ERC should focus on "running itself down" is simply part of this attempt to renege on the binding commercial contract."
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