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Heineken Cup
Wray says Heineken Cup statement 'irrelevant'
Tom Hamilton
November 22, 2013
Nigel Wray is adamant the days of ERC rule are over © Getty Images

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray has said last night's statement from the Unions was "irrelevant" and was the "last bastion of the landlord versus serf relationship".

The Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French and Italian unions issued a collective statement on Thursday saying they would support the Heineken Cup but Wray is adamant the breakaway Rugby Champions Cup will go ahead next season saying they are "terribly close to an agreement".

"Our position is exactly the same, we will not play in the ERC tournament, full stop," Wray told ESPN. "Their statement was irrelevant. Firstly, absolutely everything has been agreed [about the Champions Cup]. The only thing which hasn't been agreed is under whose governance is the tournament. The original proposal was that it'd be under the Six Nations.

"It's the Champions Cup, but it'll be the same. I imagine Heineken may try to sponsor it - so it would still be the Heineken Cup. To the outside observer, there's no bloody change."

According to Wray, the French "won't play if we don't play" and "the Welsh regions are fully signed up to play in the Champions Cup." In his view, Thursday's statement from the five unions was "the last bastion of the landlord versus serf relationship".

"It's ludicrous that some bloke in France who hasn't invested a penny in the game can tell small businesses how they can operate and what they can and can't do. It's ludicrous. It wouldn't happen in any other industry. All the clubs are, are small businesses trying to make their way in the world and they can't have some outside body telling you what you to do, who you can play, who you can take an order from.

"Imagine being in the engineering business and the engineering federation says 'oh no, you can't take an order from France'. We are so close to an agreement that hopefully, hopefully it'll get there.

"ERC is a limited company, it is not a governing body, with all the costs and overheads and expenses of a limited company. We don't want them running our game. They don't have any money invested, they aren't shareholders, we don't want them running the game. We're very happy to have the Six Nations committee involved."

And Wray is hopeful an agreement will be signed imminently securing the Champions Cup for next term.

"We're terribly, terribly close to an agreement and it's not a surprise that there's a last-minute hitch. The unions, who if you like have had the landlord role, always want to cling on to their power, it's perfectly normal. But it's like stopping the waves coming in, Canute didn't manage it and they won't.

"The number of teams entering has been agreed - seven from the PRO12, six from England, six from the French and a play-off between the French and English for the last spot. The teams have one vote each, the money is split equally between the three leagues. What could be more democratic and sensible than that?

"My personal view is that it will get sorted it. It's so silly at the moment. We're so nearly there. Most things get settled at the eleventh hour. This will get sorted at the eleventh and a half."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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