Independent mediators publish findings on Europe

Over the past two days, representatives from the unions have been locked away in a room trying to sort out the mess that European rugby finds itself in. Helping them were independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer – here, in their exact words, are their findings:

Competitions Format

There is consensus that there should continue to be two professional European club rugby tournaments, with each tournament consisting of 20 clubs. A third tier European tournament should also be considered.

The Primary Competition would be made up of 20 clubs, with six each from PRL and the LNR, and seven from the Pro12 tournament. The clubs would come through meritocratic qualification from their respective leagues. In the case of the Pro12, there will be at least one club guaranteed from each country.

In year one, the 20th place would be allocated through a play-off match between the 7th placed PRL and LNR clubs. For the following years, the 20th club would qualify through play-offs between the 7th placed PRL and LNR clubs and the two next non-qualified Pro12 clubs. The winner of the secondary competition would qualify to participate in the play-offs, if not already qualified by right.

The English and French clubs would have home advantage in the play-offs against the Pro12 clubs.

The Secondary Competition would consist of up to 20 clubs made up of the remaining 18 PRL, LNR and Pro12 clubs. Two places could be allocated to clubs qualifying from a third competition.

Distribution of Revenues

There is also consensus that distributable revenues generated through the competitions would be divided one third, one third, one third per league with the stipulation that monies to be received by the Pro12 countries would not be less than the current levels.

Next Steps

At our suggestion, all parties agreed to meet with us again within the next 10 days to discuss the implementation of these principles together with important operational and management issues.

Meeting attendees:
Graeme Mew (Mediator)
Stephen Drymer (Mediator)
Ian Ritchie (RFU)
Rob Andrew (RFU)
Bill Beaumont (RFU)
Pierre Camou (FFR)
Michel Palmie? (FFR)
Olivier Keraudren (FFR)
Philip Browne (IRFU)
Peter Boyle (IRFU)
Fabrizio Gaetaniello (FIR)
Andrea Rinaldo (FIR)
Nino Sacca (FIR)
Mark Dodson (SRU)
Ian McLauchlan (SRU)
Roger Lewis (WRU)
Jean-Pierre Lux (ERC)
Derek McGrath (ERC)

What do you make of these ‘findings’? Can you see progress being made?

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

16 thoughts on “Independent mediators publish findings on Europe

  1. don’t think these playoffs are a good idea, extends seasons for some teams, and bit unfair if one of these playoff teams is decimated by International Call-ups (at the moment Scarlets would be a playoff team, but have a number of Welsh caps)

    1. Niall, a look at all the tables will show a similar situation, Harlequins are 7th in England, with Wasps and Gloucester not even in contention for a play off.

  2. I think it still misses the point of the fact that the PRL and LNR are no longer interested in working with the ERC. I think the problem ceased to be the makeup of the competition some time ago and very much became one of working with the ERC.

    It’s interesting this comes soon after an announcement from Bruce Craig that the Champions Cup will be the top 6 from each league with 7th/8th placed teams playing off in May

    In response to Niall, I assume the plan is to play these playoffs at the same time as the respective semi-finals and finals of the league competitions so the international callups should not effect them, though there does seem to be an issue at the minute of England booking a game at Twickenham recently the day after the Premiership final.

  3. So no PRL or LNR attendance, so not sure what there was to ‘mediate’. I’m sure everyone was in violent agreement!

    If this had been on the table a year or more ago there wouldn’t have been a split, but now it’s too far gone and I don’t think this is going to bring the guys back into the fold especially with

    with the stipulation that monies to be received by the Pro12 countries would not be less than the current levels

    This means we’ll share it equally …. provided there is a lot to go round. This also means the pressure to grow the revenue all lies with PRL/LNR and I don’t think this is the equality they are after, some are still more equal than others! If this flies, I’ll be astonished.

    In terms of the format, I like the idea of 3×20 and the last 2 tier 2 places going to best performing teams from tier 3. I like the idea of the playoffs in principle (provided they can be scheduled in parallel with other domestic play off games without extending the season), but there’s not a lot of difference between this and the format PRL/LNR have proposed.

    1. Matt, I am not sure that it is ever going to be too far gone. They all need each other, and despite the posturing they all know this.

      If both sides now come closer on the structure, then ultimately it comes down to control and commercial rights, and the two sides have to start excessively far apart in order to end up with an acceptable compromise.

      1. Blub, you are right, this isn’t exactly the worst dispute in the history of mankind to be settled through talking, so yes there is hope. I guess there is a chance this is enough for RFU and FFR to persuade PRL/LNR to at least come to the table to discuss it in 10 days time.

        There are 2 reasons I think this is unlikely, money and trust/control

        1. Money. Consider a scenario (not inconceivable) where the new competition is broadcast by Sky next year, under existing obligations, and brings in a similar amount of revenue to this year. The Rabo income is ringfenced, so this leaves the same amount of money as this year to then share equally between PRL and LNR. PRL and LNR remain with exactly the same percentage (and quantity) of revenue as they have today! The total revenue needs to go up by 56% (by my calcs) before each league (not club) gets an equal share. I don’t know how achievable this is, but it seems like a huge jump to take in one year. Also highly unlikely Sky will suddenly cough up more, when they already agreed a deal (not sure about other countries)

        2. Trust/Control. You can pass control over to someone you trust. Someone who you think is going to operate with you best interests at heart. PRL/LNR do not trust the ERC, I see no reason why they would want to enter another long term agreement with them when they believe they can do better on their own. Why now risk abandoning the plans they have in place for a competition, to go back and negotiate with some people you don’t trust with no guarantee of success? I expect they will want to press on and just run their own competition and not risk the ERC derailing it by continuing to slow play until no time remains to prepare, launch and market a new competition (what they have been attempting to do).

        As you point out we should never say never, but I’m not putting money on it. I think it’s more likely that the remaining 8 clubs will end up in the Rugby Champions Cup. I’m not expecting the mountain to come to Mohammed, though as long as they both end up in the same place I really don’t care who moves!

        1. Matt – I think that you need to chuck union sanctions and referees into this pot. That might work in favour of a deal.

          1. Agree it’s a variable, but I really hope they don’t go down that line as I can see clubs threatening to withhold players from unions as a response, who knows where all that could end.

            Carrot and not stick is the only hope.

            1. Interesting to know whether the players would be insured if (a) they weren’t playing in a Union sanctioned league and (b) if they didn’t have professionally qualified refs. That would scupper a breakaway quicker than anything!

        2. Matt, you are spot on with your analysis. I guess that the cynic in me is wondering how much the English/French clubs really want to create and run their own Euro Comp.

          Sure, they want ERC and the Celts to believe they will do it, but I strongly suspect that what they really want is a Euro Comp on their terms (or at least close to their terms), and that the preference would be for an ERC type organisation to administer it.

          Your point on trust is very valid, but trust is often easily restored when, ahem, “personalities” are removed from the equation.

          I am sure I am not alone in having no taste for an Anglo-French comp and another Euro-lite comp without the French/English. This will be the overwhelming feeling which the broadcasters, sponsors and all negotiating parties will be aware of, and they know that they have to come together at some point.

          The main negative that I can see is the deep pockets of Sky and BT who have far more at stake than Sports Channel subscriptions, and probably the willingness to pump a lot more money into their side of the argument. Conceivably this could impose two competitions even with all participants knowing this is the worst option.

  4. On the whole, you would feel that this is a sensible structure. Not convinced as to why certain teams should have home advantage as of right, and am worried about the second tier not having enough “other” European clubs/regions playing, but on the whole you’d go with it, particularly on the basis of what the alternative is!

  5. Hey All
    I have noticed how ERC have been cast in the role of the defenders of European rugby. But what I don’t get is why there never seems to be any rep from FIRA (the body that represents those European unions outside of the 6N) at these ERC. Just one rep would show a real commitment to paneuropean rugby (don’t forget Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese teams have been involved in the Amlin cup – should they not have a voice?). Without a FIRA rep the ERC looks like a 6N cartel to me with no real commitment to expand the game

    1. Absolutely with you on this one. Yeah the 6N dominate European rugby, but the other European nations do have a stake in this and should be included. It could only be a good thing for European rugby across the board to involve more nations (Russians/Georgians currently unrepresented) in the process and the competition.

      1. Thanks Rucking Gray. I view the ERC as a cartel that doesn’t represent the other 42 unions in Europe. As such I don’t believe it has any moral authority. I hope The RCC does not repeat this error and really does represent the other unions (my suggestion would be to have at least one board member from the “3rd tier”)

      2. Thanks Rucking Gray. I view the ERC as a cartel that doesn’t represent the other 42 unions in Europe. As such I don’t believe it has any moral authority. I hope The RCC does not repeat this error and really does represent the other unions (my suggestion would be to have at least one board member from the “lower tier”)

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