Rugby clubs set for collision course over European competitions
The last lingering hopes of a speedy solution to the argument over the future of European rugby evaporated when five of the six major governing bodies threw their weight behind the existing Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions. The French, Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh unions effectively pledged to stand against the new Rugby Champions Club being organised by the leading clubs in England and France.
Significantly, the Rugby Football Union was not invited to the meeting in Dublin and there is no clear picture of how Ian Ritchie, the chief executive at Twickenham, can proceed in his attempt to play honest broker between the rival factions.
The English clubs have stated categorically that they will not participate in European competition under the current governance structure after the end of this season and are prepared to take court action to ensure their new tournament – backed by the four Welsh regional sides, as well as the Top 14 teams across the Channel – goes ahead.
At the meeting, the governing bodies reiterated their willingness to meet the Anglo-French clubs' original demand for new qualification rules and a fresh formula for financial distribution. However, they insisted that the current European rugby organising body, revamped to "optimise its internal functioning", must continue to run cross-border competitions.
According to Premier Rugby Ltd, the umbrella organisation representing the top-flight English clubs, planning for the Rugby Champions Cup is continuing apace. Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of PRL, continues to state that the new broadcast partner, BT Sport, will play a significant role in televising the tournament. The existing competitions are broadcast lock, stock and barrel by Sky Sports.
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