England re-entry stymied by deal

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The Independent Online
They never said it was going to be easy sorting out the mess that was the Five Nations, but it would now appear that the Rugby Football Union is caught between the rock of its legally binding contract and some hard cases in the other four unions.

Tom Kiernan, the chairman of the Five Nations committee, said last night that Twickenham's latest proposals to get back their place in the tournament were unacceptable. Last month England were thrown out after completing their own pounds 87.5m five-year deal with BSkyB.

The other unions want the RFU to make some radical changes to their arrangements with the satellite television broadcaster. Otherwise the four will go ahead with their own championship, to the exclusion of England.

Twickenham came up with some proposals, which were considered by the gang of four earlier this week, and it was announced that a letter would be sent to the RFU president, John Richardson, within 48 hours.

Kiernan said: "The proposal made by England was not in keeping with the suggestions made by the four countries at the Cardiff meeting last month. We have therefore responded to the RFU president, John Richardson, indicating precisely where improvements need to be made.

"While our position with regard to England's re-entry into the tournament has not changed, we are still hoping an agreement can be reached prior to us making the necessary commercial and administrative arrangements for the new competition later this month."

Although the 48 hours has elapsed, an RFU spokesperson said no letter has yet been received. "We haven't seen the letter, so we don't know what the improvements are that have been suggested by the other unions. As soon as John Richardson sees the letter and has had time to consider its contents then he will be able to respond."

The stance of the other unions has remained constant throughout, and it appears that England will have to make considerable amendments to their contract with BSkyB before they can satisfy their erstwhile Five Nations colleagues.