Who is really in charge in Europe?
Mon, 28 Oct 2013 08:40
Dispute complicated by a row over broadcast rights
The question of who runs European club rugby remains the major sticking point, after both sides in the 'breakaway' row moved closer on a raft of other issues.
The future of both the European Cup and the second-tier European Challenge Cup was thrown into doubt last month when leading English and French clubs announced plans for a breakaway Rugby Champions Cup (RCC) free from the control of existing organisers, European Rugby Cup (ERC) - a body dominated by the continent's leading national unions rather than the clubs.
But, following last week's meeting of national union representatives and ERC chiefs in Dublin, Premiership Rugby (PRL), the umbrella group for England's leading clubs, and the Ligue National de Rugby, their French equivalent, said there was now agreement on several major points.
"Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby [LNR] are pleased to note that all parties have reached agreement on the European club competition formats and the principles of financial distribution," a Premiership statement said.
"These are on the basis of the platform proposed by the English and French clubs and which correspond with the principles which guided the formation of the Rugby Champions Cup."
The statement added the RCC would be under the "overall regulatory responsibility" of the unions of the Six Nations (England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy), who would deal with disciplinary procedures, appointment of match officials, and compliance with International Rugby Board regulations.
Currently, the Six Nations performs a similar role regarding end of year international fixtures in Europe.
However, the statement stressed the RCC would be run by its three constituent leagues (English, French and Celtic), not ERC, who would be responsible for management and promotion of the competitions, commercial rights' sales and financial distributions.
"This solution meets the respective needs of the parties and is an integral part of the overall proposals, alongside competition qualification and format and share of financial distributions," the statement said.
"The new Rugby Champions Cup organisation will look to finalise an agreement which respects the balance between all parties in European rugby."
English and French clubs have long complained that Celtic League teams have an unfair advantage in European competition as most of them are guaranteed entry, whereas Premiership and Top 14 teams have to fight hard just to qualify.
But the Dublin meeting backed Anglo-French calls for "meritocratic" qualification.
The dispute has also been complicated by a row over broadcast rights.
Premiership Rugby have signed a television deal with BT Vision worth £152million (€178 million, US$246 million), with £52million of that earmarked for European competitions.
But ERC insist they will stand by current broadcast partners Sky, with a contract agreed until 2018.
The Anglo-French breakaway plan received support Tuesday from Wales's four regional teams - Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and the Scarlets - which further undermined ERC's position.
But that scheme suffered a setback when Mourad Boudjellal, the owner of French side Toulon, the reigning European champions, said his club would not compete in any breakaway event.
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