Weston Plan set to push RFU and clubs apart

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The Independent Online

Despite optimistic noises emanating from Twickenham last night from England's top clubs, all the signs are that the domestic game is in for a summer of discontent.

Premier Rugby Limited, the body representing the top 12 clubs, presented its vision for the future of the game, the Weston Plan, to the full Rugby Football Union council yesterday morning.

Mark McCafferty, chief executive of PRL, said: "We were encouraged by the general response we received." But it would appear that while there were some aspects of the Weston Plan which the council liked, there were more to which it objected, among them the fact that the clubs want to take charge of the commercial side of the Heineken Cup - a role that is beyond the powers of Twickenham to grant to the clubs.

McCafferty also implied that PRL want a definitive answer to the Weston Plan. "In order to have an immediate impact next season, we have to look at moving quickly towards a consensus." It is believed that PRL has set a deadline of two weeks for that answer, which did not go down well with council members.

Meanwhile, the RFU is expected to unveil its own plans for the future of the game which will involve franchising the top clubs, with Twickenham holding 51 per cent in all franchises. That will be rejected by the clubs, who want fiscal autonomy in their own businesses. So there is every likelihood of yet another falling out between the RFU and the clubs as the struggle for power in the game is renewed.

The former England and Harlequins centre Will Greenwood has retired from competitive rugby and tonight plays his final match when he captains the Barbarians against a Scotland XV at Murrayfield.