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
Friday 11 April 2014
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.
Arsenal transfer news: Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani and Gregorz Krychowiak were all linked but Wenger and Gunners fail on deadline day
Arsenal transfer news: Gunners fans devastated as they become only team in top 5 European leagues not to sign outfield player
David De Gea: Manchester United in bitter war of words with Real Madrid over failed transfer
David De Gea, Peter Odemwingie and the 18 weirdest transfer deadline day stories
Anthony Martial fee: 'Add-on' includes Manchester United signing winning the Ballon d'Or
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up