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.''

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor