Do the latest European crisis talks finally signal progress?

News broke in The Daily Telegraph over the weekend that representatives of the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian Rugby Unions were to meet this week with the RFU and its Chief Executive Ian Ritchie to discuss the ongoing European Rugby crisis.

Until now, all the unions have released statements saying they would not participate in a tournament that had not been sanctioned by ERC and the IRB, while some of them also muddied the waters by admitting a more meritocratic qualification process would be fairer than the current system – appearing to back up the complaints of the English and French clubs, who are the drivers for change.

The RFU is one of the most important players in all this, and has hitherto played its cards close to its chest. The Telegraph report claims a source from within the organisation has said it was set to be a ‘critical week’ for the hopes of striking a deal that would see a European tournament containing all European nations next season.

However, an article also appeared in The Rugby Paper over the weekend, claiming that the Welsh regions were set to ask for a bigger slice of the financial pie in any new competition. Currently, they would be £100,000 better off than under the current system, but as they feel their participation is a key factor in making the new competition successful, they feel they deserve more.

Negotiations over money aside, the willingness of the Unions to put differences aside and sit down in a room together to chat is some form of progress. If they decide the Rugby Champions Cup is, in fact, the way forwards then who knows, maybe they can even entice the English and French clubs back to the negotiating table.

And it would seem that that is becoming increasingly likely, as the Unions are beginning to realise that being involved in a new competition – even one whose terms have largely been dictated by the clubs – is beneficial to playing in a shell of a Heineken Cup, interest in which is likely to be non-existent from sponsors, broadcasters and fans alike.

That article in The Rugby Paper quoted an unknown English source as saying: “there is a reluctant acceptance of what we are doing … [there is a] realisation that what we are proposing is not as revolutionary as it sounds.

“The Unions might now recognise that this new competition is beneficial to everyone. There will be significantly more for all the competing teams.”

Despite the ugly way it has played out, progress towards a viable European alternative for next season seems to be, finally and albeit at a snail’s pace, being made.

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

5 thoughts on “Do the latest European crisis talks finally signal progress?

  1. What the heck does (and this isn’t aimed at the RB, it’s aimed at the Welsh clubs) “they feel their participation is a key factor in making the new competition successful” mean? What part of “European” cup do they not understand? We’re in this mess cos one or other club/country already thinks they’re more important than some others so now the Welsh hope to enshrine in the new comp some sort of “of course, it simply wouldn’t be rugby with the Welsh..” agreement? I hope they wind their necks in on this and that this does not become another sticking point.

    As for the new tourno … I will miss the fascinating “mismatches” that the HC supposedly generates in it’s current format – Saracens v Connaught, Edin v Munster, etc. All cross border matches that could go the way of the dodo in the new cup. I don’t buy this “make the 2nd tier cup more relevant” nonsense as there’s always a top cup “and the rest”, no matter what people do or say to make that 2nd tier cup supposedly more exciting. The main audience has time and appetite for following one competition, as do the big sponsors. Club fans will follow whatever tourno their team is in but the impartial weekend observer will concentrate on RC tier 1 matches which are all set to get more boring then if we go down from 6 guaranteed regions to quite possibly only 4. Sad.

  2. I have little hope that this is going to yield very much.

    It is a meeting of Unions, each of which have their own placemen on the payroll of the ERC. There are a lot of jobs for (otherwise unemployable) boys at risk – turkeys don’t usually vote for Xmas, even if the alternative is much worse.

    Rarely do I find myself agreeing with Brian Moore, though he seemed to hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that it is possible to have a splendid European Club Competition without having to have the ERC.

    If PRL are to be believed, there seems to be enough money on the table from BT for everyone to be getting more cash. What’s not to like?

  3. The Celtic Unions now seem to be prepared to accept ‘fairer’ qualification and equal distribution of funds between the three leagues so the only remaining area of significant disagreement might be that of governance and control. I can’t see the French and English clubs agreeing to go back to a situation where they are in a permanent minority and their views can be ignored. Nor can I see the unions ceding all control to the clubs. The obvious compromise will have to be some kind of balance of power between the two outside ERC. Since it is clearly in everyone’s interest to reach agreement this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. I think it will take an act of crass stupidity to prevent agreement, on what will effectively be Heineken Mk 2, for the sake of jobs for the boys in Dublin.

    The Welsh regions plea for a larger share of the cash is a faint hope. They might have had a chance in the event of them jumping ship from the WRU but with the Unions now sitting down together their thunder has been stolen. Maybe they hope to get the PRL and the French to press for cash to be paid directly to the clubs/regions rather than the unions.

  4. Am not always a fan of the way he says it but Brighty is once again right. No country is more important than any other in a European tournament and the results from Saturday do speak for themselves. Neither the English nor French clubs showed any divine dominance but then neither did the Welsh. I live in hope that common sense prevails.

  5. Income Per Team = (Tier 1 Comp Revenue + Tier 2 Comp Revenue)/Number of Participating Teams.

    As soon as any inequalities exist between teams or countries the bickering starts. The above is the only solution where everyone benefits from increasing the total revenue from European rugby.

    Today’s farce is the celtic nations are set to ‘demand’ more of the RWC money to fund their game. Seriously? The likes of Samoa and Tonga should lose out because a bunch of tier 1 nations couldn’t agree to play together? It is this preposterous sense of entitlement and self importance that is contributing to this mess.

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