European Rugby Champions Cup: Bill Beaumont praises influence of Ian Ritchie in forming new competition to save European rugby

Ritchie acted as a peace broker to help agree the new formation of top-flight European rugby

Ian Ritchie's vital peace broker role helped break the two-year deadlock on the future of top-flight European club rugby, according to Bill Beaumont.

The European Rugby Champions Cup will launch next season, to be run by the new Swiss-based European Professional Club Rugby.

A heads of agreement on an eight-year deal was finally signed on Thursday, after months of wrangling on fine print.

The new 20-team competition will replace the Heineken Cup, with revenue distributed equally across Europe's top nations.

Heineken Cup governing body European Rugby Cup will now be disbanded at the end of the season as expected.

Ritchie convinced warring broadcasters Sky and BT Sport to forego the law courts and agree a four-year rights-sharing deal that lifted the European impasse.

RFU chairman Beaumont hailed Ritchie's role in helping thaw the decidedly frosty relations between BT and Sky.

"The RFU, and in particular Ian Ritchie, has invested significant time over the last few months in helping to find a solution to a problem that at one stage looked difficult to solve," said former England captain Beaumont.

"We are very pleased that the challenges off the pitch are concluded so we can enjoy the joys of the game on it, creating more unforgettable memories for players and fans alike.

"The benefits will be seen far and wide, from the clubs to the supporters, sponsors and everyone who has followed the fabulous mix of high class rugby and good natured rivalry - all played out in many spectacular towns and cities in Europe."

The English and French clubs gave notice on the previous agreement with ERC and the Heineken Cup two years ago, saying they would quit the competition in the summer of 2014.

Grievances over qualification and distribution of revenue were deemed irreconcilable, and that incited a rift across the continent that deepened over time.

Premiership Rugby then signed an exclusive broadcast agreement with BT Sport, to screen a new European competition to replace the Heineken Cup.

Sky claimed they already held any future rights to the Heineken Cup, and a protracted legal battle threatened to leave European rugby in ruins.

Then RFU chief Ritchie stepped in, and managed to convince all parties to see sense, and share out the clear benefits.

BT Sport and Sky have agreed a four-year rights-sharing deal, with both parties admitting compromise was in all interests.

BT Sport director Simon Green said: "'The game of rugby had to come first and both companies have recognised that by showing a high degree of maturity and flexibility.

Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said the deal "offers clarity for European rugby".

"This is a good day for rugby," said Francis. "It enables clubs to plan for the future."

ERC chief executive Derek McGrath confirmed he will stand down in October and will not seek a new role with new governing body EPCR.

Allied to a second-tier Challenge Cup, there will also be a new, third-tier qualifying competition.

Clubs from lesser-ranked leagues across Europe, and perhaps several national sides, will compete in the Qualifying Competition, bidding to win a place in the Challenge Cup.

The top six Premiership and Top 14 finishers this season will qualify automatically for next term's Champions Cup, along with the top seven in the PRO 12.

The final qualification berth will be taken by the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed English and French league clubs, with exact details yet to be finalised.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
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

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment