English Heineken Cup withdrawal 'almost unthinkable'
Tuesday 02 October 2012
The organisers of the Heineken Cup admit it would be “almost unthinkable” for English clubs to pull out of the tournament and form their own breakaway competition.
Last month the future of European club rugby was plunged in to disarray following an announcement by Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL), who represent English top-flight clubs, that they had agreed a £152million deal with BT to show domestic and European matches from 2014 onwards.
The announcement infuriated the European Rugby Cup (ERC) - who run the Heineken Cup and had already announced a separate TV deal with Sky Sports.
Meetings between the two warring factions have failed to result in any deal, raising fears English teams could seek to break away from the competition and create their own version without their Celtic counterparts.
ERC chief executive Derek McGrath played down worries about such a scenario yesterday, and hinted that European rugby's governing body were willing to make some sort of compromise.
"It is almost unthinkable that could happen," McGrath said.
"I think everyone knows how important the tournament has become in every single country.
"It (having English teams pull out) is not something we are focused on in any way.
"We have a two-year notice period for a reason, which is to allow us to understand where we might be going to.
"That is an open opportunity to allow people to understand what we might do differently."
Changing the format of the Heineken Cup, and its sister competition the Amlin Challenge Cup, is certainly what PRL are after.
The main problem the 14 Aviva Premiership clubs have with the competition is that they have to compete in a domestic league where there is a threat of relegation whereas the Celtic teams in the RaboDirect PRO 12 league do not.
That has allowed Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Italian teams to rest players in the league so they can field their best XV in the Heineken Cup.
McGrath refused to rule out reallocating some of the Celtic countries' qualifying places to English teams as a bartering tool to get the PRL to drop their deal and commit to the Heineken Cup.
"There are no guarantees and that goes to any country," McGrath said.
"What we need to be very sure of is that every stakeholder is represented round the table.
"This is not a crisis. We are very early on in the process and are putting on the table what is up for discussion.
"We have a two-year notice period and there has been interest in trying to get this advanced.
"Nobody more than I would like to have this sorted out but we have to give it time."
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Mario Balotelli comment: Time running out for 'lost boy' to shine at Liverpool, or anywhere
Liverpool fans applaud Cristiano Ronaldo after master-class for Real Madrid, despite his Manchester United ties
Angel Di Maria injury latest: Argentina international set to play in Manchester United vs Chelsea match
Liverpool vs Real Madrid match report: Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema run Reds ragged at Anfield
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'