European league on agenda

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

A European league is on the agenda when representatives of the Five Nations meet in London today to discuss the sport's future. The home nations are gathering for next weekend's International Board meeting on amateurism in Paris, but Tony Hallett, the secretary of the Rugby Football Union, said: "In the course of that meeting, they will discuss the concept of a European league, or a cross-border competition."

The proposal will be welcomed by England's elite clubs who are keen to improve competitiveness. Some want a competition to begin this season but Hallett believes that would be premature. "We are not dragging our feet, but as far as the English are concerned it's not possible," he said.

"We have international matches and we can't renege on our Courage League and Pilkington Cup commitments. We will need a restructuring which will keep all that in place and lifts maybe some of the clubs in League One out of it and into a new league, but that cannot be done in a couple of minutes. It will take at least a year."

Hallett also suggested that the game's leading sponsors - such as Courage, Pilkington, Save and Prosper, with possibly CIS Insurance among others - are prepared to pool resources to help England's leading players to benefit financially for "promotional, representational and training work".

Will Carling has replaced Rob Andrew on the negotiating team and Hallett added that once the England captain has found a replacement for Brian Moore, who has also stepped down, then talks will resume regarding payment of players.