Clubs set to form new body

Rugby Union
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Rugby Union

The leading English clubs will tomorrow form themselves into a new power bloc to represent their interests in critical negotiations which will determine who runs the professional game and who gets what out of it.

But reports that the clubs - who are agitated at having had to fend for themselves since the International Board declared rugby open last August - are on the point of seceding from the Rugby Football Union were last night played down by the man who has led them in their discussions with the RFU, Peter Wheeler.

Meetings of the First and Second Division clubs tomorrow will approve the articles of association and shareholders' agreements for the two groupings, which will then join a venture company called English Professional Clubs Ltd dominated by the First Division. Ultimately, Third Division clubs will also be invited to associate with the new company, leaving the NCA with no role beyond administering the top end of the Courage Championship for the rest of this season.

The immediate requirement of the clubs is urgent talks on television and sponsorship, in particular the format and financing of the European Cup, in order to pay their players. "We are not asking for any finance other than is generated by our own efforts," Wheeler said.

The RFU is currently diverted by the forthcoming second special meeting on amateurism, and in the meantime the big clubs want to get on with it. "We are binding ourselves into a legal entity with which the can deal if they want," Wheeler said.

Implicit in this is that English Professional Clubs Ltd can do its own thing if necessary and Wheeler was clear last night that EPCL would be prepared to boycott the RFU's domestic cup and league competitions next season if they did not receive satisfaction. "We don't get much out of those anyway," he shrugged.