FFR set to clash with Premiership Rugby over ‘Rugby Champions Cup’

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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

8 thoughts on “FFR set to clash with Premiership Rugby over ‘Rugby Champions Cup’

  1. This is basically a struggle between privately owned clubs and those owned/controlled by the Unions. It’s fine for the union owned/controlled clubs in Ireland, Scotland and Italy to think it reasonable to subsidise the financially weaker unions, especially as they are on the receiving end of the subsidy. it’s unrealistic to expect the privately funded clubs in France and England to take the same view. Wales is somewhere in the middle and this is reflected in the Welsh media which is suprisingly well balanced on this issue.

    Given the completely different aims and views of the stakeholders it is logical to have two competitions one for the privately funded leagues and another for the Union funded leagues, probably with a play off between the top teams in each competition. Since the unions can’t force the English and French clubs to participate in a competition against their will how could they defend in court a ban on them forming their own competition? If the unions were to lose such a case it would fundamentaly weaken their position vis-a-vis clubs worldwide and I doubt they’ll risk it.

    Regretably the Rugby demographics will make the RABO teams, especially the Irish, the commercial losers under almost any scenario.

    1. Ray, thanks for pointing out that the Welsh view on this is somewhere in the middle. While I myself have massive issues with the way this is being pushed forward I do agree that at the end the concept of a 6/6/6 top from each league now seems to be the logical conclusion. There is a lot of support for this in Wales, not least from the players who feel it will validate their league which has (and this would be down to opinion) been slagged off as not important/competitive/proper, etc. The validation stops all of that and just lets people concentrate on rugby.

      I’m not sure court will be needed – I doubt the English RFU would need to ban the comp. They would just revoke the union membership of any club who played in it. That might sound like semantics, as the end result is the same thing, but I think it’s more clear cut than trying to ban the actual creation of the other comp.

      I’m still a little torn – the unions have, over the years, proven to be masters of ineptitude, things only changing when there is a virtual coup. However, the English PRL reps are hilariously arrogant tools who do not understand how to take what could be a self evidently good idea and get everyone on side with it. Press releases, selling foreign TV rights without a discussion, saying you’re the best there is, moaning about unfair rugby etc. are not the way to get anyone on side. We’re stuck between old farts in the unions and brash comically inept “businessmen” in the clubs. Messy.

      If we could go back to the start I’d try and write the PRL “offer” for them as simply saying “we move to top 6 of each league as this gives a fair and equal split of money”. Bringing the whole resting players thing into it just a) gets peoples backs up b) sounds like whining for not winning it recently and c) doesn’t even matter as it’s not the key point.

      1. I agree that we’re stuck with an argument between the stupid and the inept although I think you are slightly unfair on PRL and the French who have been making it clear for years just how unhappy they have been. For ERC to take the view that ‘we outvote you so there’s nothing you can do!’ – whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments – could only lead to the train crash we now have. RFU expelling the PRL Clubs from the union isn’t on. The PRL clubs ‘own’ the contracts of all the elite England players (and quite a few Welsh) They would effectively be abolishing the England Team, it wouldn’t hurt PRL and would still be actionable at law I suspect. I don’t know what the legal situation is in France or if the French clubs have the bottle to sue their Federation so I suspect that we are heading for at least one, possibly two, seasons with no Anglo/French participation in European club rugby.

        My own preferred solution would be to expand the Aviva to 16 clubs to include two Scottish and two Welsh teams in a British league. Places could be ring fenced for Scotts/Welsh teams with promotion/relegation from Scots and Welsh club competitions which I assume must exist although I admit to almost complete ignorance in this area. PRL has now got very successful arrangements in place with the RFU re player release, the England qualified player scheme, player welfare and so on. This could be replicated with the WRU and SRU and probably to the benefit of all the national teams.

        Of course this could never happen could it? too many ‘politics’ although, the Welsh bloggs have been so well balanced on this just maybe it’s possible. Now there are words i never thought to use in the same sentence in the context of rugby – ”Welsh and well balanced”


  2. The PRL agreement with England is a good one for England but it would be a backward step for the other unions. The other unions have far more control over their players than England do so it wouldn’t be a good thing to try and put forward as a bonus.

    1. Welsh and well balanced – aye, as rare a thing to hear as “English and not arrogant” when it comes to rugby.

      1. Guess you’ve been mixing with the wrong crowd! I think we’ve got a little Welsh team coming down to Exeter this year in what looks like being the last Heineken Cup, if you’re coming down this way I’ll buy you a pint and a proper pasty!


        1. Unfortunately I can’t make the Exeter away game but if you’re down in Cardiff for the return match then the same offer stands (minus the proper pasty of course – you’ll have to make do with Welshcakes).

  3. I might well take you up on that nearer the time. I can just about cope with a welshcake (well balanced of course!)

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