PRO12 clubs call for pan-European Cup
September 26, 2013
As things stand, Leinster will not be allowed to join the Rugby Champions Cup unless the IRB approves it © Getty Images
The Unions in charge of the game in Italy, Scotland, Wales and Ireland have all released statements saying their respective teams will not be taking part in any European tournament which does not have the approval of the relevant Unions or the International Rugby Board.
The latest development in the future of the Heineken Cup comes days after IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset insisted any European tournament should be Union-run rather than the club organised structure proposed by Premiership Rugby (PRL) and its French counterparts Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) who preside over the Top 14.
As things stand, both LNR and PRL are fully committed to the newly formed Rugby Champions Cup which they see replacing the Heineken Cup. The two organisations served their notice to European Rugby Cup Ltd - the body in charge of the Heineken Cup - in June 2012 saying they would leave the tournament unless certain aspects were changed. Both hold misgivings over the distribution of revenue, votes and the qualification process.
Despite calls for a return to the negotiating table, the French and English clubs are steadfast in their desire to push ahead with a club-run tournament as opposed to the current Union-run Heineken Cup.
Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti said on Thursday that, in his view, the "ERC is dead" and Bath chairman Bruce Craig reiterated PRL's stance that the time for compromise has now been and gone and they are pushing ahead with the Champions Cup.
Both PRL and LNR remain optimistic the teams in the RaboDirect PRO12 will join them in leaving the ERC and link-up with the new breakaway competition.
However, any new tournament requires IRB ratification while the teams playing in the competition also need to have permission from their relevant Unions. The French Rugby Federation has already said they will not support the new competition and the Scottish Rugby Union, Wales Rugby Union, Federazione Italiana Rugby and Irish Rugby Football Union have all said they will only allow their respective teams to take part in the competition if the IRB approve it.
All four Unions issued near-identical statements with the SRU's reading: "Scottish Rugby wishes to clarify that its clubs will not be participating in future tournaments which do not have the full approval of the International Rugby Board (IRB) or the relevant national Rugby Unions.
"Scottish Rugby and its clubs remain fully committed to the development of a pan European Rugby Competition and we welcome the recent comments made by the IRB Chairman, who confirmed that a pan European tournament remains the goal of the IRB. We are confident this can be achieved
"Scottish Rugby remains committed to working with our colleagues across Europe and encourages all parties to fully engage in meaningful negotiations. We hope that negotiations can be concluded quickly."
The WRU's added: "The Welsh Rugby Union wishes to clarify that it will not sanction any of its clubs or Regions participating in future tournaments which do not have the full approval of the IRB and the WRU.
"The WRU wants an agreement to be achieved and reiterates its determination to negotiate a new format for the European Cup with all of the stakeholders. The WRU's focus is to work collaboratively with our colleagues across Europe, encouraging all parties to conclude our negotiations as quickly as possible."
The statements are similar to Rugby Football Union CEO Ian Ritchie's stance, who said last week: "The RFU objective in this is a meritocratic comp that embraces all of Europe and that we find the right balance between those parties.
"Obviously it is important for our clubs in England and we want to support them. But it is also important for the game that there is a recognition that all of Europe needs to be involved and what we are trying to do is facilitate that."
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