English 'can stand on own' if other nations resist rugby TV deal

Heineken Cup meeting set to expose split over multimillion-pound contract

England's disaffected leading clubs did not expect news of their megabucks broadcasting deal with BT Vision to be met with a chorus of approval from Celtic nations who fear it spells the end of European rugby as they know it, and their hunch was right: there has been a fearful row. But the Premiership's top brass believe the commercial possibilities opened up by the agreement will change important minds at today's gathering of the Heineken Cup board in Dublin. If not, the English are prepared to go it alone, for as long as it takes.

Peter Tom, the Leicester chairman and one of the most influential figures in English club rugby, thinks the darkness of this hour indicates the imminent arrival of a new dawn for the northern hemisphere game. "I'm an optimist by nature," he said, "and we all have an opportunity, almost out of the blue, to take a significant step towards financial viability. We've done this deal with the best of intentions, both for the Premiership and for a Heineken Cup competition we know can be significantly improved.

"There's a lot of tribalism involved: in part, it's the tribal aspect that gives rugby its special magic, but we can't allow it to get in the way of cool-headed, sensible commercial decision-making. We have to understand that in this digital age, a lot of people – certainly a big proportion of people under 30 – watch their sport in new ways. To get a worldwide giant of a company like BT Vision on board is a serious bonus for our sport. I'd be surprised and disappointed if, after all the initial fury, most of those at the Dublin meeting fail to acknowledge the fact.

"We're not going over there for a fist fight: we think we have something very attractive to offer. But when you're trying to change something for the better, you have to accept there might be a scenario in which you find yourselves on your own. There is enough value in what we've negotiated with BT Vision to allow us to stand on our own for as long as we need to do so. I don't think that will happen, mind you."

Precise numbers have been hard to come by since Premiership Rugby announced its "game-changing" deal five days ago, but it seems that around a third of the £152m has been set aside for European rugby and would be placed in the six-nation common pot if agreement was reached. The French, also disenchanted with current Heineken Cup commercial and qualification arrangements, are currently negotiating a new television package of their own and are expected to bring money to the table in the near future.

It will then be for the Irish, Italians, Scots and Welsh to decide if these riches are worth trousering, or whether a less lucrative BSkyB contract extension signed by the current tournament administrators – despite being warned by the English that they would not be party to such an agreement under any circumstances – is more attractive.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the biggest sporting event on the English horizon, the 2015 Rugby World Cup now precisely three years distant, hope to confirm details of venues early next year following the pool draw in London on 3 December. Between 10 and 12 grounds will be used, including Twickenham, Wembley, Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium (where Wales could play all their pool matches, to accompanying cries of "favouritism"). Two club grounds, Kingsholm in Gloucester and Welford Road in Leicester, are also under careful consideration and are expected to get the nod.

The delivery body, which needs an average gate of 58,000 across 48 matches to make the sums add up, also has an eye on the Olympic Stadium in east London, along with a handful of football venues, mostly in the North. According to the England Rugby 2015 chairman, Andrew Cosslett, some Premier League clubs are playing hard to get. "One or two have said they don't need the money and don't need their pitches churned up," he remarked yesterday, "but we still believe we'll succeed in taking the tournament into areas of the country where our battle for attention with football is at its most intense."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year