English and French to form breakaway European tournament

The ongoing European drama has taken a dramatic turn today with the news that English and French clubs are set to break off and form their own competition starting next season. This is in the wake of continued failed negotiations with the stakeholders of the various parties involved.

The full press release from Premiership Rugby reads:

The 2013/14 Aviva Premiership Rugby season kicked off this weekend with our clubs having no clear view of new European competitions from next season onwards.

The current European Rugby Cup (ERC) competitions terminate at the end of this season after notice was served by the English and French clubs in June 2012.

Despite numerous meetings between the stakeholders over the last year, the last of which was in May, discussions have been unsuccessful and the clubs can only conclude that negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended.

The English and French clubs have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each, based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new markets. These proposals could form the basis of future competitions.

However, given the importance and urgency of the current position, and the reconfirmation that the French clubs will not participate in any competition unless it includes the English clubs, the clubs have now asked Premiership Rugby to take immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014/15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries.

It would seem that there is still scope for the Celtic nations to be involved, but only on the English/French terms.

What do you make of this latest development?

50 thoughts on “English and French to form breakaway European tournament

    1. “one that makes the celtic league more relavant by stopping the guaranteed places for the competing countries” – nice way to sneak an opinion in as if it’s a fact. It’s not “irrelevant” because of guaranteed places for competing countries. That’s an opinion. It’s shared by a lot of people, but there are plenty who disagree.

  1. Sad day, great competition for us fans, but when did that matter?. Where is the IRB in all this, how do they plan to develop the game by letting a very successful competition implode?. Well let the big boys off and spend their way to bankruptcy…

  2. Wouldn’t judge just yet – let’s see how the tournament is organised first and the system. The current HC system does have flaws right now, to be honest. Although how to make it a perfect system without flaws is beyond me.

  3. An overblown competition with too many meaningless group games.

    Would love to see a straight knockout competition.

  4. In my opinion a complete joke. English and french clubs just power and money hungry trying to boss around the celtic clubs. as said already there are flaws in the current system but no need for all this. Just childish imo

  5. Europe definitely needs a top level competition , preferably to the same level as the Super 14. Ireland already use regional teams, why not have a similar situation for the smaller countries (Italy & Spain for example) to make their teams stronger. This will not only make the competition stronger but also bring on their national teams. France & England to remain with the current system for their top tier teams.

      1. Jamie, don’t disagree with you there, however if the teams in Spain are united they should improve dramatically. My argument is that for RU to continue to flourish the minor nations should be encouraged to improve & hence make the game truly a world wide force. I have played in the Spanish National League, which in 2000 was probably on a par with the London Div 3/4. I believe since then they have improved however their top teams are still not up to the standard required for the HC. If they drew the top players from each team they should be able to produce 1 or at a stretch 2 teams to enter the equivalent of the Amlin. This in turn would encourage an improvement overall in the local teams & also improve the national team. You never now there may even be a Spanish player in the Premiership 1 day.

        1. Purely from the point of pedantry – there was a Spaniard in the Premiership several years ago in the form of Oriol Ripol

    1. Yorkie
      Ireland do NOT use “Regional” teams. Ireland developed their PROVINCIAL teams into the professional teams when rugby went professional for the very realistic and pragmatic reason that they could not have supported more than 4 pro teams. The Inter-Provincial championship had been held since 1946, thus predating professionalism by 50 or so years. That structure was, fortunately for Ireland, already in place. Thus rivalry between the provinces predates any match ups in Pro 12 or HEC games.

      Back in the day the autumn internationals were not the big deal they are today. The Inter-Provincial matches provided the Irish selectors with an opportunity to see the best players from the four provinces in a short series of matches (each province played the other).

  6. Saddened to see this news today. Heineken Cup rugby has been the pinnacle of European club rugby for so long. This is a massive middle finger to all the fans across the 6 countries, as today a truly great competition has been irrevocably tarnished.

    The Celtic League is often seen as the weakest of the three big leagues in Europe and there is this perception that the Heineken Cup is biased towards teams from that league financially, and in terms of qualification. While it is true that the bottom team in each group is typically a Celtic League team, other Celtic League teams, particularly the Irish provinces, have been major forces in the competition over recent years.

    The increasing competitiveness of Celtic League teams could only be a good thing for a European Cup, and recent years have produced epic encounters between Celts and Premiership and Top14 teams. This new break-off competition seems designed to centralise European rugby talent into two counties, rather than to allow this amazing sport flourish and grow in new pastures.

    1. But Lemmings – don’t you see that the Celtic league is the reason for both the best and worst teams?

      The best – Leinster/Munster/Ospreys (yes, never won it, but…) can rest their best players as their league is meaningless.

      The worst – the league is meaningless so crap teams can get a free ride into the HC and get all of the lovely TV money that should be going to the much, much better 5th/6th placed teams in the Eng/Fre leagues…

      It’s a boring old argument that will not see a solution as it’s all about prejudices and subjective views (for the record the above stuff from me was sarcastic, but plenty of people think it’s right).

      So I’m just going to say that despite the English and French view making my skin crawl I want to see the Celtic league/teams buckle down, realise who’s got the clout here, and just join in on their terms. Yeah it’ll suck but when we still keep lamping them in the HC and the 6Ns at least they won’t be able to use the whole “but the Celtic League lets you rest players” argument.

      We’ll need some rebalancing in our countries (probably need to lose a region in Wales) but it’s what we are going to have to do. It’ll suck but the truth for Ire/Wal/Sco/Ita is that there is no other option in order to keep the game we love going. The Eng/Fre are going to force NH rugby to go the way of football and, much like it has done in that sport, it’s going to decimate the game at international level (this will increase club power, thus reducing relative national union power). We just need to ensure it doesn’t in our countries as for us the national game is tops.

      1. Brighty,

        “The Celtic league/teams buckle down, realise who’s got the clout here, and just join in on their terms”

        A bit harsh isn’t it? Also about the Pro-12 not caring about the league and putting out weakened teams etc. That is RUBBISH. have a look at the rotation which the French teams do. It can also be called player management; consideration for player welfare. I was coming out of Thomond Park one evening. There was an English supporter (sorry can’t remember which team) and a Munster supporter beside me. The English guy (they had lost) made the comment about Munster resting their players whereas theirs have to play week in week out. “Yeah” said the Munster man. “I own racehorses and if my trainer pushed my horses the way your guys are pushed in the English game, he’d be up before the beak for cruelty to animals.”

        1. KiaRose, I suspect you missed the sneering sarcasm from my comment here. I’ve gone on at length on this blog before about this “resting” rubbish that keeps being bandied about. I agree with your statement on this.

          As for my comment being harsh – it’s meant to be. The English and French have the financial power here – without them there is no Euro comp and they don’t need there to be one to make money – eng v France is a crap comp but that won’t matter them, it matters a lot to us.

          So I meant it harshly – us celts and Italians have to swallow this and get on with it. We don’t like it but hey, there was always a reason we viewed the English as the enemy when it came to rugby. This just spices it up a little more.

  7. Come on guys, don’t piss your pants to keep yourself warm, joining a competition on French/English terms is still better than not joining a competition at all.

    Whilst I’m not is complete agreement with the English and French proposal I can see that 2 20 team comps is more marketable and will raise the profile/quality of the second tier comp. This will bring in more, much needed, TV money and everyone benefits. This has to be better than myopic protectionism. There is no way the English/French are going to accept a status quo of qualification and the small piece of the pie on revenues.

    Very sad day if it is the end of European club rugby, but I suspect that we’ll go through some “creative destruction” and we’ll see something rise from the ashes that involves everyone.

    1. ” joining a competition on French/English terms is still better than not joining a competition at all.” Yep, it definitely is. It sucks. It makes us angry but we just need to get on with it. Disagree with the rest of what you said though but as you say, it doesn’t matter, we join on English and French terms and at least give ourselves the material for the next fifteen years of six nations team talks.

  8. This is not the end, neither do the celtic countries have to accept the terms dictated.

    I believe a deal is possible that gives the smaller nations more money than currently, but a smaller share, if the voting power is ceded.

    The English might accept 8 from each league in the HC.

    1. I hope so, because this seems like a reasonable compromise, it just means no ‘extra’ slots for the league that produces the HC and Amlin winners, but I can live with that.

  9. There is a bigger picture here. the Scottish and Italian clouds are franchises of their unions. If there clubs loses out on HC money then it directly effects the quality of there national sides, do we really want a 4 nations competition (or given the issues in Wales) a three nations competition. I for one would like to see rugby expand and have more competitive nations not less.

    The HC is an agreement between unions not Lengues, so the premiership really has no place in the negotiations, it should be the RFU and its member clubs. Although I do have simpethy with the English clubs, there are improvements in Italian (Trevino) and Scottish (Glasgow) clubs.

    Also disagree that the rado is meaning less does every club not want to win its own league? Give the French the choice if the top 14 or the HC and most would pick the HC.

  10. I’m disappointed, but I feel that labelling the English and French clubs power hungry and greedy is possibly a little unfair.

    England and France have strong domestic competitions that prop up the Heineken Cup. Between the two, they provide 26 sides across the Heineken Cup and Challenge Cup. Ireland, Scotland and Wales provide 10, fewer than England alone. And yet, they each hold the same power within the competition.

    Welsh, Scottish and Irish clubs, because of their structures are protected domestically because of weak sub-competitions. Never mind the debate of relegation to lower leagues, English and French clubs have to focus on qualifying for the Heineken Cup year in year out by competing in their strong domestic leagues, only the top half qualify.

    I sympathise with England and France over the issue a little. 3/4 of Irish teams qualify, 3/4 of Welsh and all the Scottish teams. England and France are effectively punished for having a good domestic competition and the Celtic sides are protected from having to make their competition better. I personally think forget the Unions involved. There are 3 leagues that compete in the Heineken Cup. The top half of each one qualifies, the remainder in the next tier. I really don’t understand what’s unfair about that.

    I feel that the problem has been that the Celtic nations (+Italy) provide a vote per union so any motion to improve things for England and France would be quashed 4-2. Who are the bullies with all the power? Because of this, the Heineken Cup has been stuck in a position it’s been in since it’s inception rather than developing and trying to improve, it’s being maintained so that they will retain the power and not have to expand or improve.

    England and France have extended an invitation as they prepare to organise a new competition for other teams that want to be involved, it’s an opportunity to start afresh with a fair and even structure.

    1. Finally an insight ful comment not the usual French/ english greed blah blah blah. Equal blame on each of the three leagues.

      Now the premier league were presumptious in anouncing the bt deal but the ERC were petulant with their rush to sign up to sky. Any potential deal died then.

    2. It’s unfair because it tries to force the celts, who have far less teams and therefore could not have their own leagues (there are more people living around Leics than live in the whole of South Wales) so they joined together to make something financially viable. So now they are being penalised for doing it – Eng/Fra saying “we’ll, you’re in one league now so you’re all one thing”. So forget that they are sep countries now. Forget this is the European cup. Doesn’t matter to Eng/Fra – they want what they do followed by everyone else I.e. top X from each league.

      The “resting players” argument is at best a smokescreen, at worse it is completely disingenuous. I’m old enough to remember English dominance of the HC and being told it was due to the better league in England – better because it was more competitive, because every game was do or die, because resting players was is possible. This was also often cited as a factor in England international dominance. Now we’ve entered a period of relative English club and country failure compared to the celts and all of a sudden the very things that made the Celts rubbish are now the things that give them an unfair advantage. So lets leave the resting players thing out as each person uses it to prove different arguments.

      I do think its about greed and power but its club greed/power, not union. This move will not be good for eng/Fra national sides either. More powerful clubs, more money, means less interest in supporting the EPS, less interest in national quotas and more interest in buying the best players no matter where they are from, to ensure that lovely euro money can be chased. English league itself will suffer as, following the same model proposed for euro comp, the likes of Exeter, sale, Newcastle etc will fall further behind. Salary cap will go the way of the dodo as it will make no sense when leics are earning over 10 mil in euro comp money alone.

      The numbers of teams you quote only look unbalanced because you are including the Fre/Eng 2nd tier comp which has the odd Celtic team in it. Scrap it then. Nobody watches it anyway, it’s just there to keep the other half of the English and French leagues occupied on HC weekends.

      Yes, all Scottish teams qualify. All 2 of em. Saying “all” but only “half” English teams is really unfair. It’s not Scotland’s fault that England has over five times as many pro teams as it has. It’s not Scotland’s fault that therefore England can’t get all of it’s pro teams into the euro cup.

      Greed is mentioned because the goal that the eng/Fre want will increase the funding to their sides and marginally modify the funding to the Celtic sides. You could argue that this is coincidental, many don’t think it is.

      I think this discussion shows the problem though and why an agreement is miles off. Everything you’ve said wookie you no doubt believe. Using the same facts I see you have painted a picture that shows the English/French point is completely common sense, is not selfish and in fact even approaches an altruistic move for the better of the European game. Using the same facts I see England/France taking their ball away, letting a few Celtic league teams join but only on eng/Fre terms and not giving a stuff about rugby in general as long as the same old big clubs further feather their nests. We can then add a few side dishes to further satisfy ourselves eg you see player resting as unfair, I see a desperate lunge by eng/Fra to stop the celts dominating the euro and six nations. All subjective views from the same facts.

      The fact that you and I can get two different readings from the same set of facts is probably mirrored at the level of the clubs and unions involved. In short each side thinks they are right and that the other side is, really, taking the piss.

      1. Far from saying that my point is right, only that there’s a lot of mindless shouting about English/French greed without too many people accepting that they have a point, which you at least acknowledge.

        I personally liked the proposed changes and I felt it would help the Rabo become more competitive than it is at the minute. At the minute it always feels like if you’re not going to be in the top 4, you don’t need to bother, all you need to be is better than the Newport/Connaught if you’re Welsh or Irish and neither of those teams is competitive. It might generate more competition from some teams within the league if they see a goal in the top 6. It might also stop good players seeking a challenge over seas.

        I also think it’s important to remove some of the poorer teams from the H Cup. I know it’s the premier competition in Europe, but for example what do Zebre gain by going into the group stages every year and coming out with a -100 score difference and no points? Would they not be better off in the Challenge where they might actually mount something that vaguely resembled a challenge?

        There are arguments for either side. Yes, it would damage Scotland who would likely only get one team in it and Italy who may get none while Wales may only get 2, but at least then it’s the best 6 against the best 6 against the best 6 (+2) and the Challenge cup would probably have benefited

        1. Wookie, I know a lot of people like the proposed changes but when that that goes from a personal liking to telling other people that its actually good for them etc. then it’s a great way to get a poor response. Telling someone else that you know what is best for them never ends well. It’s doesn’t help when what is being told boils down to “do it like us English and French already so it” and then there is the additional statement like “I mean, it’s common sense, how can you not see that this is the best and fairest option?” So to summarise – non Rabo Pro supporters not only know what’s best for us, they tell us that it is so obvious that it is best for us that they cannot understand why we cannot see it. I think that’s where the accusations of arrogance come back.

          My experience of the Rabo is not as you describe. I’ve gone on at length about that before but in summary I do not believe teams only play decent competitive rugby when they have something to lose eg relegation or losing chance of euro cup. When i see english teams p,auing with fear at missing out i dont feel i am watching better rugby. This isn’t an opinion that you or I are likely to change so I won’t rehashthat argument.

          On this getting rid of the poorer teams – it’s not the best of the best, it’s the European cup. The best of each country. Some countries only have two teams so they already have their best concentrated into those two sides. If England had 80 pro sides, 40 of them clearly the best in the world, it would not be a euro cup to just pit those 40 against each other.

          Further on getting rid of the poorer teams – why does this only matter in the euro cup? Why don’t we slim down the WC as well? Canada, Tonga, Japan, Georgia, Spain – really, those teams often get tonked. Why are they there? Lets go further – the sanzar sides and just England really, they have all the previous wins between them. What’s the point of Ireland being in it, they’ve never even got past the semi’s?

          I think this whole “they’re not good enough to be in it” is an absurd argument. It’s a European cup – decide amongst yourselves how to get each team into it, but don’t tell others how to do it and don’t have the arrogance of telling other countries they are not good enough. If its just down to quality then Ireland and France should just go off and have their own comp.

          1. Wookie, it’s not clear from my initial response that my points are general responses to the overall stuff being said. They’re not directly aimed at your responses which are a lot more measured eg you don’t sound like you are telling us Rabo fans what to do. You’re leaving it at “I think”, plenty go on from there and start spouting “it’s obvious” and “it’s common sense”.

            1. I get your point, but as a European tournament that should be more inclusive, should we also be including the Spanish/Romanian/Georgian etc.? This is actually what I like about having the tiered competition. The counter proposals from the rabo unions effectively suggested getting shot of the second tier tournament and letting rugby die in the other countries.

              I think the important thing is inclusion. Having all of the top level sides involved in some sort of European competition and the Challenge Cup offers a place to do that. Just because Cardiff or Treviso for example may miss out on 6th place in the Rabo and thus Heineken Rugby doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have European rugby. Now it may not be good for the sides that don’t qualify for the Heineken Cup, but it’s not the end and I think it would drastically improve the Challenge Cup competition and reduce how much not qualifying for the top tier hurts.

              Each of the Unions is trying to protect their interests. It is not in the interests of the Rabo based teams to make changes to the structure so it won’t happen. It is in the interests of Anglo/French clubs, but they are the minority. Other sides are invitational, therefore their unions don’t have any input or power, but I’m sure that a lot of the lower tier domestic sides would see this as a good opportunity for them.

              1. Your summary here is the nub of it for me as this is the bit that makes sense to me. Personally I’d prefer top 8 from each league as the Italians in the Rabo have a chance of making Top 8, it’s a realistic aspiration, Top 6 is well out of their reach for a few years. So pragmatically I’d go for that and see if the compromise needed is to just say “ok, top 6 then, fine”. I think part of the problem is that the language around the discussion then moves on to

                – because “your league” (the Rabo) is crap and uncompetitive because it doesn’t do what the French/English league does
                – “we” (Fra/Eng) are doing this for the good of Euro rugby. No you’re not, at least man up and admit it, it’s for the good of Fre/Eng rugby. That’s fine but stop pretending that isn’t what it’s about.
                – at the moment “your teams” get to rest players, this isn’t fair and scuppers our chances of winning … This is a bobbins argument to me (yes, I know lot’s of people think it’s “common sense” so please see my earlier post about when the English used to tell me that this resting players was actually the reason our sides were crap, not the reason they could be better).

                When you add those three above it all gets horribly parochial because one side is trying to claim the moral and intellectual high ground and this p’s the other sides off.

                So leave all that out, just be brutally frank e.g.

                This is the money. We’re doing it this way cos it’s best for Eng/Fra. We’re not going to pretend it’s better for you but it’s certainly better for you than no comp at all. So join in. Let’s have a chat about the finer details (num of teams etc.) and see if we can compromise on that…

                1. Will it/won’t it improve the pro 12 is a mute point, resting players is also irrelevant (the French do this with their giant squads anyway so have the biggest advantage in that department)

                  The best solution is grow the cake, not argue over the slices. Whilst I’m sure the primary motivation of the French and English clubs is not the good of the European game they have at least come to the table with a grow the cake proposal. The pro 12 has taken the isolationist view.

                  When you look at the profile super rugby has over here (even ITM and Currie cup gets almost as many games shown as premiership) there has to be the opportunity to grow, what is in my opinion, the best club comp in the world into a stronger worldwide brand.

                2. Matt, I was with you all the way up to “The pro 12 has taken the isolationist view”. Everytime it gets sensible someone can’t help but point out that the other side is wrong and in fact there is a side in here with the moral superiority and “the right” answer. Best I think if they all agree on simple facts and avoid pointing out where the other unions are doing the wrong thing. Perhaps then they might get it sorted in time for us to watch some decent rugby next year.

                3. Brighty, what would you call the negotiating position taken by the Pro 12 teams? I’m not looking to sling mud, this is just my opinion of how they have handled things. Their desired outcome was no change and they seemed to have no room for manoeuvre.

                  They currently have the lions share of the revenue, they have had the voting power, they haven’t communicated any future vision for European rugby other than keep it the same. It seems very isolationist and protectionist to me. The mountain was never going to come to Muhammed in this instance. I think it will cost them as a result because I think they will end up with less favourable terms in the new competition than could have been negotiated over the last year within an ERC framework.

                  It’s bitterly disappointing that after a year of talking (or not talking) it has come to this and I’m sure there blame on both sides for it. There is no moral high ground and I’m sure this is going to result in poor working relations for as long as those currently involved remain in post, which isn’t good for the game.

                4. Matt, I agree with you that the Pro 12 option of “no change” is a rubbish one and they should be ashamed of not negotiating beyond that. However, the blame is on all sides. I was having this argument on Twitter yesterday with Moore and that – they said the Celtic sides have not budged an inch on this. The thing is, neither have France and Eng. They’ve put their proposal out there and have not budged an inch on that either. They’ve also sold the TV rights for their proposal. That doesn’t sound like an open negotiation to me either.

                  So my point was that any viewpoint which only abuses one side is, well, one-sided. Both/all sides have been rubbish here, they all need their heads banging together.

    1. Oh but it does Trevor. That’s part of PRLs issue with it. The HC is an agreement between unions Trevor, so they want the new comp to be driven by the clubs. That’s just another thread in this whole saga and even why “some” crowing English club fans will eventually regret this move as it’ll lead to England following France into massive overseas recruitment and stuff the EPS and other related agreements.

      “Some” – I’ve lost count of the “good riddance to the crap welsh clubs” type comments I have read on twitter.

  11. Only thing it will lead to is the Celtic nations going bust and then begging to be let back in. A 20 team and 2 tier tournament with extra cash for all was more than fair for everyone involved. There is no way a team like Zebre should be in the Premier European competition.

    1. Yeah, we don’t want Italians in the Euro cup, we just want the best of the best. I say lets just make it the top 4 of the Top 14 for the next few years. They’re obviously the best. Who the hell do Exeter think they are trying to mix it with Toulon? How dare the organisers put Gloucs in the same tournament as Toulouse. Madness.

  12. I think we know who has the strongest feelings / bias on this thread!

    It’s a real shame that an agreement between the nations/clubs can’t be made. A competition with just the Fre/Eng teams isn’t something I’d be excited about watching.

    For me having teams from the 6 Nations countries is key for it to be a truly European rugby competition.

    Exposure for the less competitive teams is important for their development. If they’re excluded they’ll always be less competitive. Italy tagged onto the 5 nations and didn’t register a win for a few seasons (i think).. Look how they developed as a result. They’ve beaten all the other teams bar England now (and probably deserved to beat England at times). It’s unlikely that would’ve ever happened if they were consigned to a lower tier league.

    1. Bingo! Rodgers wins. First “biased” jibe of the season.

      It’s an odd jibe as I agree with you – development of rugby in general is at stake here with a very real risk that this move will reduce the spread of rugby. Curious why you’re able to say that Rodgers yet if I say it then its bias?

      1. haha, is there a prize? I do broadly agree with what you’re saying and the bias comment wasn’t a malicious jibe.. just something to get your blood flowing a bit faster! Couldn’t resist.

        I don’t have a very strong anti RFU/France or Pro Celts/Italians view that I think you are taking. I’m just a bit disappointed at the prospect of not watching the HC on a weekend, which is perhaps where we differ.

        Including the less competitive nations (italy/scotland) is key but I also support arguments for some level of meritocracy

  13. High quality European club rugby is the only way forward, this is the only route that will bring in the television and sponsorship revenues for all that countries to keep 6 nation professional rugby viable. Picking the format that will generate the greatest total amount of revenue is critical, the consequence of not doing so is we will be left with a French premier league an English first division and the semi-pro 12.

    2*20 gets rid of the crazy mismatches in both comps and ensures that all nations are represented in both comps, generating more interest in the second tier comp. Although I would prefer 6+6+8 rather than 6+6+6+2 winners I still think this will be a change for the better in the long term as it will be more marketable and generate more revenue for all.

    It won’t happen, but I would love a salary cap on the European squads along with a min number of home nation players in your match day 23.

  14. Blimey – bit of a hard read catching up with all of the points on here.

    I would suggest that there is a consensus amongst rugby fans (of all nations) that they would like a European club contest. Personally I most definitely don’t want just an Anglo French competition.

    The two problems that we have are (a) the politics of money and (b) the politics of power.

    Sadly none of us fans can do anything about either of these. The money side of it is pretty simple in principle in that each body involved either representing clubs or national interests is going to want as much money as possible rather than accept a smaller pot. Sadly if the English and French clubs think that they can get more money from an Anglo French competition that is what they will try to do.

    This is where the power bit comes in and who is running the game in the respective countries and what their agendas are. I don’t have a clue as to how this works so won’t try to make up anything about it (although I am sure that it is Rob Andrew’s fault!). However surely (in an ideal world) the Unions should be working to develop a competition that the punters (us) want to watch and develop the game throughout Europe. I fully understand that it is not an ideal world.

    Lots of comments about greedy this or intransigent that. Actually we have no idea what discussions have gone on and the information coming out into the public domain will have been spun by the party releasing the information, so I wouldn’t trust it anyway. Personally, it seems like a poor reflection on all of the unions and sadly as we know, they are all as bad as each other with infighting and petty agendas being all we hear about.

    So what can we do about it? Probably not very much other than vote with our feet depending on whether we want to watch a match or not. Other than that we can all fall out and resort to national lines, but not a great deal more . Personally I’m going to concentrate on the rugby that is being played at the moment and leave the interested parties to play their games of brinkmanship and posturing to sort it out. Sadly that may take a couple of years.

  15. It is a strange one that I can see both sides of. I completely agree that there needs to be qualification for the HC, but I wouldn’t want to see a competition without Scottish or Italian teams, so where is the compromise?

    To me; 6+6+8 (8 from the Rabo) would surely mean that the Scottish and Italian have a very good chance of getting in. Is that not pretty fair?

    I also think that whilst the HC is important, the Challenge Cup needs to be made stronger. Zebre as a waste of time in the HC right now, but they are improving from being in the Rabo. Surely a year or two in the Challenge Cup, actually playing competitive matches would develop them more than getting smashed in the HC?

    Let’s be honest, it is about money. The Fre/Eng team are worth more commercially, so they feel they deserve more. Fair enough, that is the way of the world. As long as the Celts and Italians aren’t completely screwed then I’m sure there is a compromise somewhere.

    The problem is that I am sure they are having the exact same debate I have read through this thread. The Eng/Fre use ridiculous arguments without just saying its about money, and the Celts get so angered by this they refuse to budge.

    Find a middle ground, it can’t be that hard.

      1. This is how you make it easy to resolve – put Jacob in charge of it as this makes complete sense to me – “To me; 6+6+8 (8 from the Rabo) would surely mean that the Scottish and Italian have a very good chance of getting in. Is that not pretty fair?”

        No need to bring up resting players, subsidising, crap teams/leagues, etc. Just the bare fact above.

        1. Oh no Brighty and I have agreed on something… surely not!?

          I feel like I should make some sort of Welsh jibe but I’ll resist for today!

  16. I am stealing the below comment from another webpage (credited at end) as I want to know – does anyone know if the below is 100% accurate?

    [startquote] Without IRB sanction no tournament can take place and every player, coach, club/province & match official that participates would face a worldwide ban from the game (like participating in an unsanctioned game in any sport), like wise who’ll referee/touch judge these games and risk never being involved at international level. The IRB is controlled by the Unions who control the game in their respective countries the Prem Clubs & LNR have zero ability to organize any tournament without their say so. [endquote]

    From – http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/catastrophe-if-the-heineken-cup-cant-be-saved-odriscoll-29573373.html

  17. This issue gets more intractable with each development. And more boring too.

    McCafferty does like to do his negotiating in public, which doesn’t seem to help matters at all. However, at least we can’t be mistaken about PRL’s position and motivation. Every public comment seems to be made on behalf of the English and French clubs but we haven’t heard from the opinion from France straight from the cheval’s mouth. If PRL is accurately reflecting the French opinion then the Rabo unions surely have no option but to relent over qualification. It appears that the Irish union has been playing brinkmanship in the hope that the French clubs will back down once the prospect of a season without the HK becomes real. leaving the English clubs isolated and with nowhere to go other than back to the table with less leverage.

    The main French beef, so to speak, is about reducing the number of games. That can only happen with fewer teams and the obvious solution therefore is to cut the number who qualify from the Rabo. I don’t speak as an expert on French rugby culture, but my understanding is that the clubs there, with a few obvious exceptions, prioritise the league over the HK. The revenue that comes from the HK isn’t nearly as important to them as to the other stakeholders. So, it doesn’t seem feasable that they’d back down at this stage.

    The bottom line from the English perspective, is the bottom-line. Whilst Leicester, Saints, Gloucester and Quins are fairly well run businesses, rugby clubs in England are largely loss making. They want more money (and Brighty, your point about PRL hiding this fact is balls. McCafferty has never denied that increasing revenue for the clubs he represents is a major issue. If you’re going to misrepresent someone, at least provide some out of context quotes when doing so).

    One concern I do share with Brighty is that by increasing the budgets of clubs in England, it risks undoing the good work of the last 6 years of making the clubs focus more on developing young English players. A rich Premiership may just become a retirement home for SANZAR players looking for a last pay day. They may be more successful while weakening the national side at the same time

    And I agree with Jacob that a stronger Amlin means that not qualifying for the HK wouldn’t such a punishment. One argument I’ve heard many times in favour of the status quo, or something close to it, is that to restrict Italian involvement in the competition would mean to narrow rugby’s reach in Europe and risk fatally weakening the game in Italy. Firstly, European rugby has spent the best part of 15 years subsidising rugby in Italy, in both the club and international games. Should this be a permanent state, or is it time that we trusted the game there to be able to move forward without the leg-up it currently gets. Secondly, it can easily be argued that by making the rugby they play more meaningful and competetive, this will strenghten the game there, not weaken it. And thirdly, the French/English position has included opening up the competition (through a third tier) to other countries such as Georgia and Spain, with the hoped-for result of spreading the game’s reach.

    So, they’ve now had a meeting to discuss when they should have the next meeting. Terrific. This story has taken up far too many column inches over the last year and it looks like it will carry on being the major topic for a good while yet.

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