Clubs win battle of Brittle to avert split

Rugby Union

English rugby union last night pulled back from the brink when a tortuous day of negotiations culminated in a settlement between the Rugby Football Union and the First and Second Division clubs who had been threatening to secede. At the 11th hour the clubs have ended up with virtually everything they wanted.

Agreement was achieved only when the full committee of the RFU, called to an emergency meeting in London, effectively circumvented the head of their own negotiating team, Cliff Brittle, by accepting that the clubs in membership of English Professional Rugby Union Clubs would have control of, and the proceeds from, the competitions in which they participate so as to help finance the new professional club game.

The clubs will henceforth be represented in, and be signatories to, all television and sponsorship negotiations. "We will be joint signatories to those agreements and the money will come to the clubs," Donald Kerr, the Epruc chairman, said. "It will get professional club rugby off the ground with a major source of income for us and a recognition that we are finally moving into professional club rugby.''

The clubs have formally agreed to remain within the RFU, to play in all RFU domestic and other competitions, and to recognise the primacy of England and representative rugby within player contracts - though, critically, these will be held by the clubs and not the union.

The contention may not quite be ended, because the union had already been warned that if it acceded to the clubs' demands an attempt would be made by the English Rugby Counties' Association - an important Brittle supporter when he was elected chairman of the RFU's executive committee at a special general meeting in August - to overturn the agreement at another special meeting.

However, Brittle indicated that the deal would satisfy the grass roots no less than the senior clubs, so did not anticipate a counter-revolution. Whether that eventuates remains to be seen. When yesterday's proceedings finally ended Brittle took his place at the table along with those who have been his sworn enemies when the announcement was made.

In the end Epruc got more or less what it had wanted, including a First Division of 12 clubs for one season only in 1996-97. Saracens and West Hartlepool are thereby spared relegation. The union and Epruc will now draw up a contract under which the clubs will in effect run their own affairs while remaining in the RFU.

The ending was fittingly protracted given the months of fruitless and occasionally ill-natured talks that had led Epruc as recently as Tuesday to recommend that its members set up on their own. Yesterday morning the committee for the first time received a presentation directly from Epruc, followed by a report from Brittle of the final position worked out by his negotiating team at an eight-hour meeting on Thursday night.

It then took all afternoon and into the evening for a detailed resolution to be drawn up - which was then sent for amendment to Epruc representatives. "We are very happy with this agreement," Brittle said. "There are no winners or losers. The game is the winner." Which was not something that could fairly be said during these recent months.

Brittle insisted neither he nor the RFU had backed down but clearly something happened yesterday and afterwards Peter Wheeler, the chief executive of Leicester, was clear that the clubs had had the majority of their case upheld, albeit while staying under Twickenham's auspices.

"What the clubs have decided is that basically the Rugby Football Union will govern the game in England and they will take part in competitions we govern," Brittle added. "There has been a meeting of minds." This is a remarkable reflection on the successful outcome from a man who has consistently been painted by Epruc as the biggest single obstacle to a resolution.

The way is now at last clear for the clubs to get on with the difficult business of signing up their players. "What has happened has given the clubs the basis on which they can move into a professional club era," Wheeler said. "We all know roughly what sort of money is about and we can now enter into the contracts we need with our players.''

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone