English and French clubs threaten to pull out of Heineken Cup over 'Celtic bias'

 

Top clubs in England and France have served notice of their intention to quit the Heineken Cup and organise a rival competition as they believe the current format is weighted too heavily in favour of the Celtic nations.

Leinster and Munster have won five of the last seven Heineken Cups between them, with Leinster winning three of the last four, and their rivals in England and France believe that is partly a result of a qualification system that allows them to rest their players during the RaboDirect Pro12 season.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty told the Guardian: "Most of the Ireland squad will not be released for the Pro12 until rounds three or four, something they could not do if they depended on their finishing position in the league for European qualification.

"The clubs in England and France have served two years' notice that we intend to pull out of Europe because there needs to be a level playing field.

"So far, the response from the other countries has been slow, even though we are not sabre-rattling. We have not been locked in talks and there is no meeting about the issue until the end of next month.

"Our view is that the qualification process needs to be changed so that it is entirely merit-based - the top teams in all three leagues as well as the winners of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup should make up 20 sides taking part."

The English and French sides believe no more than six Pro12 teams should qualify, although that would put at risk the involvement of Scottish and Italian sides who currently qualify automatically.

"I think those countries have effectively made that decision by forming the Pro12," McCafferty added.

"It is like me saying that the Premiership has to provide a qualifier from the south-west. It cannot be good for the competition that you do not have the best sides qualifying.

"Aironi were disbanded at the end of the last season and the newly-formed Zebres go straight into the Heineken Cup."

McCafferty said he was not prepared to do anything to damage the Aviva Premiership in order to change the qualification system for the Heineken Cup, as the Premiership accounts for 80% of revenues compared to 20% from Europe.

"ERC should know that we are serious and while the issue has to be resolved, everyone has to realise we cannot carry on as we are," he said.

"If it is not, we would go to an Anglo-French competition and if others wanted to join us, fair enough."

ERC has planned talks for September on the issue.

"We have held meetings with all our shareholders and asked them to draw up proposals which will be considered at next month's meeting," said a spokesman.

"Notice was served by the French and English clubs and the French Rugby Federation at the beginning of June and it was agreed at a board meeting a few days afterwards that we would have a workshop in September after holding briefings with everyone.

"We do not want to enter a war of words with Premiership Rugby, but we have been working away in the background and we are in the second phase of the consultation process."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness