Rugby television talks to continue next month after failure to reach resolution

 

The future of the Heineken Cup will not be resolved until next month after a five-hour meeting in Dublin yesterday broke up without a resolution.

European Rugby Cup Ltd executives portrayed a sense of unity among the six competing nations, stating that "productive" talks with all stakeholders would resume in Rome on October 8.

But Premiership Rugby, representing the English clubs, remain at odds with ERC after both parties signed conflicting television deals which are due to begin in 2014.

The English and French clubs have already served notice on the current accord, seeking changes to the qualification structure and a greater slice of the financial rewards.

Premiership Rugby agreed a £152million contract with BT Vision, with the aim of establishing a "dazzling new European tournament" when the current Heineken Cup participation agreement ends.

Meanwhile, ERC signed their own Heineken Cup broadcasting deal with Sky from 2014 and claimed Premiership Rugby had broken International Rugby Board regulations by going it alone.

The Rugby Football Union appeared to further isolate Premiership Rugby by confirming they had not given the clubs permission to strike an independent deal with BT Vision.

But Premiership Rugby believe their plan to restructure the Heineken Cup would be financially beneficial for the whole European game and were hoping to outline those details yesterday.

However, an official ERC statement issued after the meeting of 17 executives focused only on the fact that negotiations over the formulation of a new Heineken Cup accord had begun.

The statement read: "Representatives of ERC stakeholders met in Dublin today (yesterday) to begin the formulation of a new accord which provides for the structure and format of European club rugby tournaments for the 2014/15 season and beyond.

"The meeting included productive discussions regarding the future of the club game in Europe with a general resolve among all stakeholders to reach agreement towards a new accord.

"It was decided that all parties would continue the consultative process at a meeting in Rome on October 8, 2012."

Premiership Rugby and the French clubs activated their right to renegotiate the Heineken Cup accord because they want to overhaul a qualification structure that currently favours teams from the RaboDirect PRO12.

While English and French clubs have to qualify for the Heineken Cup through the league, Scottish and Italian teams are given a place by right.

That leads, it is argued, to the kind of imbalance which saw Edinburgh reach the Heineken Cup semi-final last year while struggling at the foot of the PRO12.

Premiership Rugby want the PRO12 clubs to have to qualify for Europe's top competition and they also believe they deserve a greater share of the income than they currently receive.

Premiership Rugby will attempt to convince ERC executives that the increased cash injection brought about by a deal with BT, rather than Sky, would be financially beneficial for all nations.

The English clubs plan to plough the European portion of their BT deal - reported to be around £100million - into the new-look competition.

The BT deal would also bankroll the proposed introduction of a new third-tier competition, offering clubs from countries such as Russia, Portugal and Spain a route into the Amlin Challenge Cup.

PA

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