In the wake of yesterday’s news that the French clubs will play in the Heineken Cup next season, not the breakaway Rugby Champions Cup, their English counterparts have, somewhat surprisingly, indicated a willingness to compete in next season’s competition, provided they have an alternative in place for the 2015/2016 season.
It is an astonishing about-turn from Premiership Rugby, who have hitherto been staunchly against any involvement in future tournaments run by ERC. However, staring down the barrel of a year with no European involvement, their stance appears to have softened.
Chief Executive Mark McCafferty last night said: “If somebody can outline what that transition would entail, how the issues would be overcome and exactly what the new structure in 2015-16 would be, then we could look at it,” he told Press Association Sport. “If we can see there is a new structure to replace ERC and we have the detail of that, then something might be feasible. At the moment it’s all very general and difficult to comment on.”
Meanwhile, LNR chairman Paul Goze defended his decision to back the Heineken Cup after previously having pledged his allegiance to the English clubs and their breakaway tournament. He insisted his organisation had not “gone into reverse gear”, claiming that they would only participate in the Heineken Cup under two conditions: firstly, the English clubs are included, and secondly, that a UEFA style body is formed for the 2015/2016 season.
One thing to remember, though, is the BT deal. How will they feel about the English clubs’ involvement in the Heineken Cup, which is to be broadcast by Sky, given that they have a deal for the rights to the Rugby Champions Cup, in whatever guise that might take?
It is believed PRL are exploring alternative options, should involvement in the Heineken Cup prove untenable, including an expanded Premiership, or forming a tournament with South African sides.
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