Move to new Anglo-French competition 'inevitable' says Saracens chairman

Nigel Wray not surprised by developments over European competition

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray believes moves towards establishing a new Anglo-French competition next season were “inevitable”.

Tournament organisers face a battle to save the Heineken Cup after disgruntled English and French clubs announced plans for a rival event.

European Rugby Cup directors went into a scheduled board meeting in Dublin today, knowing the tournament's future is on the line.

Top English and French clubs served notice last year of their intention to quit the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup when an existing agreement expires next summer.

They want changes to the structure of both continental competitions, principally over the number of teams involved, the qualifying process and how funds are distributed.

And after what Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts feel has been a lack of progress in talks with ERC, they have unveiled alternative plans, which includes an invitation for teams from other countries to enter any new tournament.

"It was inevitable, it has to happen," Wray told ESPN.

"It is a Union competition, set up by the Unions, fair enough. But it is the clubs taking part in it and it's hugely important to the clubs. We want it to be a club-controlled competition.

"In addition, under the current structure, the two nations - France and England - who provide the vast majority of the revenue are permanently out-voted by the four other nations. In that system, you have to leave if you want to change something.

"And that is what hopefully we are doing. We are setting up our own competition which one hopes the other nations will join. We hope it will have better revenue and will be better run than it is at the moment.

"To me, the one person always neglected in these discussions is the customer. What do they want?

"They don't want more and more games, they want big games. And that applies to everything in life - the big concerts, the big songs, the big sports games. They don't want to see meaningless games. If that is what the customer wants, then that is what you've got to give them.

"Do we want the rest of the nations in it? Of course we do. It has got to be a competition that more accurately reflects the revenue generated by the various nations."

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty told Press Association Sport: "We have had 15 months of discussions which haven't produced an outcome. There hasn't been a meeting since May, and there has been no urgency over the summer.

"Our clubs have been very strong in saying they need clarity.

"If we can't reach an outcome involving all the European clubs, we at least have to set up a competition involving the English and French clubs.

"If others want to come into that competition then we can look at that, but we have to get on and prepare."

PA

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