Smith confident of union support for new comp
September 23, 2013
"There is no purpose in continuing to play with one's food, eventually you have to eat" - Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith © Getty Images
Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith is confident that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) will not block the English clubs' quest to create a new European tournament.
The leading English and French clubs are planning to launch the recently-named Rugby Champions Cup next season having failed in their attempts to negotiate changes to the Heineken Cup. The militant clubs are also keen to wrestle back control of any future tournament and insist that they will no longer work with the union-dominated European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC), the organisers of both the Heineken Cup and second tier Amlin Challenge Cup.
However, any new cross-border tournament requires the approval of the respective unions and previous reports have suggested that both the RFU and their French counterparts will prevent the new tournament coming to fruition despite the promise of a cash windfall for all the clubs involved.
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has since offered his conditional support for the English clubs' plans but stated his preference for competition that 'embraces all of Europe' while the International Rugby Board has said it will only back the new idea if the French and English unions approve it.
"They are probably sitting on the fence at the moment and keeping an eye on what's happening," Smith told the BBC. "I can't see any reason why the unions wouldn't agree to, approve and support the initiative."
Smith also revealed that Premiership Rugby have had "extremely positive responses" from other clubs and unions about joining the new competition. "We are moving at a very good pace," he added. "The name demonstrates there is something real that we have created. This isn't living in a world of concepts anymore. We have put a stake in the ground and said: 'We are here and moving forward from here'. There is no purpose in continuing to play with one's food, eventually you have to eat."
However, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) has since taken a hard line approach to the proposal and look set to veto any non-ERC run tournament.
"No meeting or international competition involving French clubs can be organised outside the framework of the FFR and without its prior agreement," the FFR said in a statement released on Sunday. "The FFR has always been and will remain a major player in the European cups organised by ERC and backs proposals to permit the continuity and development of these."
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