Yesterday’s findings from the independent mediators, who had overseen a meeting and negotiations between the various unions over the past couple of days.
While some progress appeared to be made, with concessions to the model the English and French clubs want being made, PRL’s response was lukewarm at best.
Their statement notes “progress has been made on some key issues although there remain some significant ones which have not yet been addressed”:
– The new Rugby Champions Cup is proposed to be under the overall regulatory responsibility of the Six Nations for compliance with IRB regulations, the provision of disciplinary services and the appointment of match officials.
– The three Leagues will organise and manage the new Rugby Champions Cup competitions and maximise all the commercial rights.
– In the 20-team top competition, there would be 7 places guaranteed for the RaboDirect Pro12 league.
– Within the 7 automatic places, there must be at least one team from each country.
– The French and English leagues will provide a minimum financial guarantee for the teams from the RaboDirect Pro12.
While they admit that ‘some progress has been made’, two of the biggest hurdles remain: governance and the make-up of the board. In the current format, the board of the ERC is made up of nine directors from the six unions and one each from Premiership Rugby, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Regional Rugby Wales. The Rugby Champions’ Cup board would include delegates from the English and French clubs and the four countries that make up the Pro 12, all three leagues having equal representation.
“I think we are still some way from a resolution,” said Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby. “I was surprised that the unions issued a statement before considering the other, bigger issues that need to be addressed. The Rugby Champions Cup is a club tournament that will be run by clubs and it will be done so in a far different, leaner and more cost-effective way than ERC.”
“ERC is costly to run for a nine-weekend competition,” said McCafferty. “The LNR takes up more than half the year and the Premiership 26 weeks: both leagues are run by clubs under the regulatory guidance of their respective unions.
“It will be the same with the Rugby Champions Cup, where the board will be concerned with commercial issues and tournament organisation working in partnership with the unions who will be responsible for areas like referees, discipline and anti-doping.”
Would that not be a problem in Wales, however, where the regions, who declared this week their backing for the Rugby Champions Cup, are independent of the union and have thus not been included in negotiations? “I do not think that would be an insurmountable problem,” he said.”Our cup will be a commercial tournament and we have given financial guarantees to all the Pro 12 countries. We have to be able to run the tournaments in the way that will allow us to generate the money to meet that commitment and it is essential that it is administered by the three leagues.”
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