Pierre Camou, chief of the FFR (Féderation Française de Rugby), has made an enticing offer to the French clubs in a bid to get them to commit to the current competition structures, continuing under the auspices of ERC. This comes in the wake of his commitment of French representation to the existing ERC structure, despite the agreement made by the Top 14 clubs to their English counterparts to participate in an independently run tournament.
Camou has reportedly warned the clubs that there will be no new deal with the French union over television rights and player release unless they withdraw their support for the Rugby Champions Cup, the English clubs’ ‘rebel’ tournament that they had previously committed to.
Perhaps more significantly, he has also offered the clubs €2 million (£1.68 million) each to participate in the ERC-driven competitions, and set them a deadline of next month to make their minds up.
All this is set against the backdrop of a rumoured meeting of the unions in Dublin on Thursday, to which the RFU is the only one not to be invited. It is believed the Irish, Welsh, French, Scottish and Italian unions will discuss plans to surge ahead with revised versions of the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups, without the participation of the English clubs.
The Celtic, Italian and French unions are reportedly happy to go ahead with a tournament not including the English for the good of the long term game, despite the immediate set-backs a less diverse tournament would create. It is also believed they are determined to honour the existing broadcasting rights deal with Sky Sports.
The English clubs, however, are believed to still be confident that the French clubs, as well as the Welsh regions, who have both previously pledged their support to the Rugby Champions Cup, will take part in the new tournament, which will be broadcast by BT Sport.
With Premiership Rugby reportedly prepared to legally challenge any move to block clubs from joining the Rugby Champions Cup, Europe is as divided as ever over the issue of its club rugby future. The prospect of two watered-down competitions seems like a very real possibility.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images