European stalemate continues with latest statements

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There was a hotly-anticipated statement released this evening, amongst hope that a way forward would be revealed, but in reality, it looks as though we are still nowhere regarding the future of European Rugby.

First, the FFR, FIR, IRFU, SRU and WRU have apparently committed their support for ERC, even though the Welsh and French had supposedly backed the English plans for the Rugby Champions Cup.

The statement read:

A meeting was held in Dublin today (21 Nov) attended by FFR, FIR, IRFU, SRU and WRU to discuss the on-going issues surrounding European club competitions.

All five Unions believe that it is critical to the interests of the game in Europe that the Unions are at the heart of the governance of cross-border club competitions given that rugby in each country is organised in a pyramidical structure. Clubs, provinces and regional organisations form an integral part of the development of the game throughout this structure, from grassroots to the international game. Cross-border club competitions must not conflict with the development of the sport in Europe by Unions, this being in the best interest of players, spectators and the sport in general.
The five Unions reconfirmed:
• Their agreement with the new competition formats and financial distribution formula previously agreed by the six Unions who attended the mediated meeting in Dublin on 23-24 October.
Following today’s discussions, the five Unions have agreed the following:
• A European club competition is to take place during the 2014/2015 season following an optimised sporting and economic format with 20 teams, no matter how many countries are involved.
• The competition will be driven by the existing organisation (currently named ERC) which will remain in charge of the centralised sale and management of all commercial rights, amongst other things.
• Discussions over governance will be pursued in order to optimise the internal functioning of the existing organisation (currently named ERC).
• The common aim is to move eventually towards the integration of European competitions within an all-encompassing European rugby framework.

Then a statement from Premiership Rugby followed swiftly afterwards, noting the lack of detail in the above:

Premiership Rugby notes the statement issued this evening concerning the proposed new European club rugby competitions for the 2014/15 season.
There is no detail concerning the teams involved or the competition format given the absence of so many teams.
The English and French clubs served notice on ERC and its competitions on 1st June 2012 and the required notice period concludes after the end of this season when the Accord will terminate.
Today’s announcement would appear to indicate that the latest negotiations have been ended, as was the case in September 2013. As a result, we shall continue to implement the plans underway for the Rugby Champions Cup with the declared participants in time for the 2014-15 season, as required by our clubs and communicated in the joint statement of 10 September 2013 and subsequent media statements.

The two new competitions will be based on:

• Qualification on merit
• A strong competition format
• Equality between the leagues
• Higher commercial values for the teams
• Expansion into new markets.

Where do you think this leaves us? Is this progress?

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

23 thoughts on “European stalemate continues with latest statements

  1. It’s all a bit weird, where are the RFU in all of this?

    I think it will all boil down to the balance of power in France if the FFR can hold sway over the French clubs and they join the ERC run competition then I think the rugby championship is probably dead. The Irish and Scottish clubs and unions are all part of the same organisation so the union effectively speck for the clubs. It will be intresting to see what the welsh clubs do as they can’t stand the union but only survive with it’s backing, not sure where the balance of power lies there.

    The RFU seem to have no power or influence over the English clubs so they will do what they want.

    Still no idea how this will work out.

    1. The RFU are practising what used to be called “masterful inactivity”.

      That is – they are waiting to see which way the wind blows before committing either way. The FFR is the key – and their position seems to have shifted 180 degrees in the last 2 months.

      So basically f*** knows what will happen next.

  2. What if the RCC doesn’t happen?
    Here is what the English clubs could do: Expand the Premiership to 14 clubs, expand the scope of the LV cup (as a side note the English clubs make more money from the LV than they do from the Heineken Cup – which sounds just crazy!!) and the England national team could play more internationals (4 in the Autumn instead of 3 for example – and the RFU could pass on a bit more cash to the clubs as a result).
    Things could get interesting.

    1. They played 4 last season anyway (Fiji, Australia, SA and NZ), but seeing as this is an initiative being driven by Prem Rugby and the clubs, I can’t see that being a viable option as it means they’ll end up having less time with their players than they do now!

      1. But if there is no RCC, which is possible, then a reduced playing schedule for the clubs is one possible outcome. And, if that is the case, then there is the possibility that the time could be used constructively by the RFU with more focus on the national squad (& reimbursement accordingly). I don’t believe that it will happen but it is something that could happen and I listed it as a “could” rather than “would”

  3. I don`t think the FFR backing of the ERC has enlightened anybody that much. It all depends on the clubs, if the French clubs go with their Union then the English clubs will have to enter the HC again, no choice.

    The FFR must be confident of support to make this call as they would be really embarrassed if they were shown up b their own clubs. So I would guess the French clubs will support their union.

    However as far as I can tell, we are back to square one. The English and the French clubs standing alone. They have the power. f they create the Rugby Championship alone then the rest will have to follow. Nothing has happened in essence.

    1. Ronnie – I wonder if the English have to go back to the HC if the French pull out. As mentioned above they can: “Expand the Premiership to 14 clubs, expand the scope of the LV cup (as a side note the English clubs make more money from the LV than they do from the Heineken Cup – which sounds just crazy!!) and the England national team could play more internationals (4 in the Autumn instead of 3 for example – and the RFU could pass on a bit more cash to the clubs as a result).”
      Losing the RCC and the HC is not necessarily doomsday

    2. English clubs won’t return to the HC as they have a deal in place with BT. Sky will be broadcasting the H Cup, in whatever incarnation, next season, so the English clubs will be forced into a different tournament because of their deal with BT.

      1. You say “forced”. Do you know that the BT deal forces them to be in a European competition? And I emphasize “know”

  4. As above, I don’t think that the only 2 options are HC with all involved or RCC. If the French union stops their clubs from splitting from ERC then the English clubs may simply play the long game and write off European competition for a few years. With the domestic BT deal they can surely handle shortfall.

    It does seem strange that the RFU was shut out of the talks given their mediation efforts. Is this a French play to weaken their biggest enemy?

  5. To me the ERC are a cartel representing the interests of the 6N unions and only the 6N unions. It does not have a significant interest in the game in the rest of Europe (there is not one single representative from AER-FIRA, the body that represents rugby in all of Europe, on the board). The ERC are not angels who are protecting the wider European game, they represent the 6N unions.

    Therefore, does the ERC really have moral superiority over the RCC? Both organisations are looking after their own members interests only.

    1. The key difference is that the RCC will involve a much narrower sectional interest/cartel, than the existing wider ERC sectional interest/cartel. The problem is that out clubs have apparently signed a rebel contract with BT promising them that they will televise any cross-border club games. And our clubs can’t deliver on this obligation. A total mess.

      1. True Tom -its a mess. But I agree with the word “apparently” – I don’t know if they HAVE to be involved in an European competition for BT or not.

  6. Here’s the RFU statement late last night:

    “We are extremely surprised and disappointed not to be involved today. It is right that the outcomes of the mediated meeting held in Dublin on 24th October, which resulted in an agreement for a meritocratic tournament and equitable distribution of revenues, have been reaffirmed. It has been clear for some time that governance is a central outstanding issue and we remain committed to help facilitate a solution so that a truly pan European competition can continue to thrive for the benefit of players and spectators alike.”

    1. So Hutch – what they’re saying is exactly ……… nothing! As mentioned above they are obviously waiting to see who the winner is going to be and then they’re going to back the winner!

  7. Nick; not sure why they were snubbed? Or not sure why they are saying they were snubbed.

    I suspect they were snubbed, so as to push them “off the fence” and try to leverage the RFU to pressurise the PRL.

    Lets not lose sight of the fact that the Unions, with the exception of Ireland, Scotland and Italy, are NOT in perfect unison with their teams. So this is more than a country based division.

    1. I am not sure Blub that snubbing them was a good idea. I would imagine the RFU are now irritated with the ERC. Will that make them more likely to help them? I doubt it

      1. I’m sure you’re right Nick. Sadly there appear to be very few good ideas, or even good intentions from any party in this whole debate.

  8. So the RABO unions having conceded the justice of PRL case for change hope that big brother French federation will bully or bribe the French clubs into submission. It’s reported that the bribe on offer to the French clubs is €2 million per club to stay with ERC. Is that to each of the top 14 ie 28 million and is it an annual payment or a one off? I don’t think a one off share of €2 million will be enough on its own and I doubt the F F L can afford €28 million pa. The threat from the federation is that without their sanction the club’s will be in breech of French law. Common sense says this must be a restraint of trade and consequently in breech of EEC law. This begs the question ‘are the French clubs sufficiently hissed off with their union’ to drag them into court? No doubt both sides have sought expensive legal opinions and received expensive contradicting advice..Let’s hope the French clubs have the bottle to see it through.

    1. Even if they don’t go for the RCC the French may be very happy just playing the Top 14 and ignoring the HC

  9. FFR should be renamed FFS. I don’t see that going to war with their clubs is going to help them at all in the long run and again we see the WRU don’t care about their regions.

    Excluding the RFU (because they want to negotiate a solution rather than go to war with their clubs …. seems reasonable to me) shows this is nothing to do with the good of of the game, and everything to do with power and control.

    Not usually been a fan of the RFU, but credit to Ritchie for not getting dragged into the public posturing and grandstanding.

    Why should the ERC hold the commercial rights for a club competition where the ERC does not stand to gain (or lose) anything, regardless of how successful it is at realising the maximum revenue for those rights? It becomes a prone as FIFA to self interest and corruption. Let the clubs (leagues) negotiate with their preferred commercial partners to generate the max revenue for all, makes far more sense.

    Again we are another step closer to the scenario where everyone loses (now the battle seems to be about who will lose the least). Ridiculous, pathetic, disgraceful the lot of them for letting it descend to this.

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