IRB boss weighs in on Euro row
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper wants the European Cup to remain a tournament for the continent's leading clubs amid fears of an Anglo-French breakaway.
IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said he wanted the European Cup to remain a tournament for the continent's leading clubs amid fears of an Anglo-French breakaway.
The tournament, as well as the second-string European Challenge Cup, faces an uncertain future now English and French clubs have given their notice to quit the existing competition structures at the end of the season amid a row over revenue distribution, qualification procedures and broadcast rights.
"Our clear position is we support a full European competition," said Gosper at a news conference in London on Tuesday to mark two years to the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
"Our desire is a bona fide European competition so we are urging all of the constituents of that conversation at the moment to get together and find a resolution because we obviously believe it is in the interests of rugby to have a strong European competition.
"It's good for the clubs, it's good for the (national) unions," the Australian added in his first public comment on the row.
"Obviously, they are in a negotiation, hopefully they are in a negotiation, some say they are, some say they aren't, but certainly we (the IRB) believe in a European competition and will support that outcome as much as we can."
Clubs from both the English Premiership and France's Top 14 are unhappy with the existing set-up which sees nearly all leading sides from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy guaranteed European Cup places on grounds of nationality rather than on their positions in the domestic Pro12.
However, the Premiership's plan for an Anglo-French tournament announced earlier this month did extend an invitation to teams from beyond England and France to join their proposed new event.
The Premiership and the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR), their French equivalent, are also unhappy at the way European Cup revenues are divided, arguing they should receive a greater share on the grounds their clubs generate the bulk of the revenue, with the Premiership and ERC involved in a row over the ownership of broadcast rights to tournament matches.
The LNR have said French sides would participate in the European Cup from next season only if it also involved English clubs.
Meanwhile Gosper said on Tuesday that the IRB were expecting to generate a surplus of some £150 million ($240 million, 180 million euros) from the 2015 World Cup which the global governing body intends to plough into the development of rugby union worldwide.
This compared to a figure of £92 million generated by the 2011 World Cup won by hosts New Zealand, with IRB officials attributing the difference to the larger commercial market in Europe.
But, despite the recent global financial crisis, the projected 2015 figure also represents a significant increase on the £121 million generated by the 2007 World Cup in France.