Speaking at the launch of the Heineken Cup in Cardiff today, ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath insisted that everyone was working as hard as they could to find a solution to the ongoing European crisis currently enveloping the game.
“ERC supports and wishes to encourage everybody back to the table. There is a lot of activity going on to try to find solutions,” McGrath said.
“We have stated many times that we absolutely believe that we will only find agreement when we have the full engagement of all the parties around the table. We haven’t had that yet. We haven’t had engagement and we haven’t had negotiation, which is critical to find progress. The door is still open to find solutions.”
The ERC were condemned for organising ‘crisis’ talks for the end of October, with many people feeling it showed a lack of urgency on their part. McGrath believes there is still time, however.
“There is still time, but all parties bear a responsibility to find those solutions, and walking away is not respecting the obligations to those, in particular, who are not sitting at the table – the fans, the players, the sponsors – who have a significant interest in the future of the competitions.
“We would like to get solutions as soon as possible. The meeting we have called for October 23 and 24 is not that far away if we can get proper engagement. We would encourage everyone to get back to the table because solutions can be found. We absolutely believe the future is best served by doing what we have all been doing for 18 years. I sincerely believe it is in everyone’s best interests to come to the meeting.”
McGrath’s message comes in stark contrast to that released last week by Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty, who effectively ruled out a return to the negotiation table of the English and French clubs.
“From our perspective, those competitions in their current form are over,” said McCafferty. “We don’t have any dispute with ERC, from our point of view, which is why the appointment of a mediator [Canadian lawyer Graeme Mew] by ERC is a bit odd.
“We’ve served notice, we are discharging all of our obligations during that notice period, and at the end of that notice period we will go to play in new competitions. There is no dispute about that from our point of view.”
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images