Premiership Rugby and their French equivalent, LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) confirmed over the weekend that the name of their breakaway tournament for next season would be ‘The Rugby Champions Cup’.
The press release stated that the tournament will be ‘open to teams from all three leagues in Europe’ – Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and RaboDirect PRO12. It went on to say that it will be based on ‘the principles of qualification on merit, a strong competition format, equality between the leagues, higher commercial values for the teams and expansion into new European markets.’
Further details of the structure of the tournament, as well as marketing and financial details, will be communicated in October.
However, the FFR (Fédération Française de Rugby – the French equivalent of the RFU) last night threw a (further) spanner in the works by saying it would not sanction any tournament that was not approved by ERC. For the breakaway tournament to go ahead, it would need the approval of the FFR, RFU and IRB, while any RaboDirect teams wanting to join would also need the approval of their unions.
The FFR’s statement read:
No meeting or international competition involving French clubs can be organised outside the framework of the FFR and without its prior agreement.
The FFR has always been and will remain a major player in the European cups organised by ERC and backs proposals to permit the continuity and development of these.
If the FFR is in favour of an improvement in the European cups, their organisation can only be envisaged under the edict of the European federations which make up ERC.
The statement released by the clubs appears therefore irrelevant and inappropriate.
It is a strongly worded statement that is a hammer blow to the wishes of the LNR and Premier Rugby. It is another ugly twist in this saga which seems at the moment – unless someone blinks – to be headed only one place: court. Mark McCafferty has certainly not ruled out that scenario.
“We’re asking for the RFU’s support against the background that there will be no ERC competition in which we’re taking part at the end of the season. We need to put in place new competitions,” McCafferty said.
“If that scenario occurs where the RFU oppose what we’re doing, we’d have to look at their reasons for opposing it. You can’t just say from a legal point of view ‘we don’t want it so we’re not going to approve it’, especially when there’s a conflict of interests.
“We’ll try to overcome the issues and then take it from there. We’re asking for support. We’d expect that support.”
What do you make of these latest developments? Can you see a ‘Rugby Champions Cup’ working? Would the RFU dare go against Premier Rugby with a World Cup on home soil just around the corner?
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images