English clubs ditch Heineken Cup - confirming they will not take part in any ERC run competition in 2014-15

All 12 Aviva Premiership clubs, plus representatives from Leeds and Bristol, voted unanimously to pull out

Any last lingering hopes of a thaw in the deep-frozen argument over the future of the Heineken Cup disappeared into the chill winter air last night when the chairmen, principal investors and chief executives of the 14 biggest clubs in England reaffirmed their decision to boycott the tournament next season. They are now seeking at least six weeks’ worth of new fixtures in a bid to fill the gap left by the decision to walk away from one of the world’s most captivating competitions.

There was no clear road ahead for the English clubs following a five-hour meeting in London attended by representatives of all 12 top-flight sides, together with delegates from Bristol and Leeds, who also own a shareholding in Premiership Rugby Ltd having spent much of the professional era in the elite league. One obvious route would be to expand the Premiership by readmitting the two second-tier teams, but there is no guarantee that the governing body at Twickenham would sanction such a move.

Alternatively, there could be a bid to tempt the four cash-strapped and deeply unsettled Welsh regional teams into a cross-border alliance – a move strongly supported by Nigel Wray, the Saracens chairman. But while Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets supported Anglo-French plans for a new pan-European tournament – plans that disintegrated last week when the French clubs bowed to establishment pressure and agreed to play one more “transitional” season of Heineken Cup rugby – it would be a high-risk step into the unknown for them to break links with their own governing body and ride shotgun with the Premiership fraternity.

After yesterday’s meeting, the Premiership Rugby chairman, Quentin Smith, insisted that the 14 clubs in attendance were speaking with one voice in rejecting any return to the Heineken Cup fold. “There were full and frank exchanges, as there always are when people challenge each other on serious issues, but by the conclusion of the discussion there was unanimity,” he said. “We believe we are rather unusual as far as this long process is concerned, in that we have been consistent in our view. That view is that we have no future in European competition as it is currently run.

“If I’m honest, we’re growing a little tired of all the procrastination, all the filibustering. The French talk of a ‘transitional’ season, but what does that mean? We don’t have the faintest idea, frankly. We understand that they operate in a difficult regulatory environment on the far side of the Channel, but from our point of view we’re not in the business of putting off tough decisions or buying ourselves time. We need to move on.”

Smith was bullish over the prospect of teams outside of England agreeing to play “meaningful fixtures of value” against the Premiership clubs. “Nothing is off the table in terms of what we attempt to put together for next season,” he said, “and we do not intend to continue in a holding pattern. We thought we had a deal with the various governing bodies on our  proposed Rugby Champions Cup on 22 October, but for reasons of their own, the French union then decided there was no deal. That’s where we are. I’m confident we will put together a full season of rugby for our supporters. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a booming market of this size?”

He was less confident of anything being salvaged from the Rugby Champions Cup blueprint. “I don’t see any insurmountable obstacle, any roadblock, that prevents the tournament taking place at some point in the future,” he said. “My heart tells me there is still a chance of a sensible agreement that benefits us all. Whether my intellect tells me the same as my heart, I’m not sure.”

Last night’s developments came at the end of a day that saw two more front-line members of the Wales squad, the outside-half Rhys Priestland and the hooker Richard Hibbard, heavily linked with moves to the Premiership next season. If, as widely expected, Priestland agrees terms with Wasps and Hibbard throws in his lot with Gloucester, it will be another savage blow to the impoverished domestic game on the far side of Severn and inevitably lead to accusations that the English have joined the French in pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbour recruitment policy.

Why have the English had enough of the wildly popular Heineken Cup?

Because they believe the current administrators have failed to maximise the tournament’s value. The Premiership clubs wanted greater commercial and organisational control.

What happened to the entente cordial with the French?

That collapsed last week when the top French clubs voted to stay in the Heineken Cup for another season.

What now?

Anyone’s guess. The Welsh regions want to stick with the English; the Irish, Italian and Scottish unions are sticking with the status quo; the French seem stuck in a strange world of their own.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone