RFU optimistic over Heineken Cup compromise
December 10, 2013
RFU CEO Ian Ritchie wants a pan-European tournament © Getty Images
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie is optimistic English clubs will be involved in a pan-European tournament next season.
England's Aviva Premiership clubs are currently refusing to participate in next season's Heineken Cup as they are adamant they will not play in a tournament run by European Rugby Cup Ltd. And while the French previously backed the English clubs and their plans for a breakaway tournament, they have since changed their position and are now happy to play in the Heineken Cup next term.
The situation potentially leaves the English clubs adrift but Ritchie is optimistic that the obstacles preventing an agreement on a new tournament involving all six competing nations - framework, voting on commercial rights and broadcasting rights - can be overcome.
Ritchie is convinced there is still a "deal to be done" as he seeks to prevent the disintegration of European rugby that would inevitably accompany the formation of an Anglo-Welsh league.
"We must understand the consequences of failure - they are not a good thing," Ritchie said. "We are in a better place if we have a proper pan-European club competition. The alternatives are lesser to the ones we believe we should be working towards.
"All parties want to get a pan-European competition. I don't know of anyone who doesn't want that. Everyone wants it, the question is how we get there. We owe it to the fans, players and everybody involved in rugby to make sure we get this agreed. All of us have an obligation to bust a gut to reach an agreement.
"We need to get in a room as a matter of urgency and get proper, focused discussions to agree on the outstanding matters. That's what we've been trying to do because the prize of getting it right is infinitely preferable to the alternatives."
Ritchie denies England's prospects at the 2015 World Cup would be harmed if Stuart Lancaster's players were to miss out on European competition in the build-up to the tournament, a point highlighted by ESPN's John Taylor.
"We spend a lot of time talking about how much rugby players play and would it be better to have a rest," Ritchie said. "You want to have a European competition and that's helpful. For a period prior to the World Cup I don't think it's the be-all and end-all. I don't think it's damaging per se to England's performance at the World Cup."
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