'Celtic clubs face financial meltdown', says Bath owner Bruce Craig
The hard words over the future of the Heineken Cup continued to pour out when Bruce Craig, the increasingly influential Bath owner who has been one of the principal movers and shakers in the English clubs' drive to launch an Anglo-French tournament next season, warned of impending financial meltdown in the Celtic lands – a comment not obviously designed to spread sweetness and light amongst the warring factions.
"If the competition is not approved," he remarked, referring to the Rugby Champions Cup, which the English and French rebels insist will be in place in a year's time, "it will have absolutely catastrophic implications for Celtic rugby, where teams would be without significant revenues. The Heineken Cup is finished. It's over. The Rugby Champions Cup is the way to save European rugby."
Craig's comments, in an interview with the BBC, also included a claim that if teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and, indeed, Italy, the fourth nation in the Pro 12 league – were given an opportunity to join the English and French in the new venture, they would agree to do so.
"It's basically the Celtic unions that would stop them participating," he said. "Everyone would prefer that we didn't go down the legal route. We all want a fabulous European competition. The reality, though, is that if there was to be a blockage, there would be obvious questions around restraint of trade." This was the second hint at recourse to law made by a club owner in the last few days. Nigel Wray of Saracens made a similar threat last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Edinburgh hooker Aleki Lutui will be available for the start of this season's Heineken Cup campaign – a match against Munster at Murrayfield on 12 October – after being given a two-week ban for dangerous tackling against Ospreys in a Pro 12 game last weekend.
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