IRFU set to reject English and French ‘breakaway’ plans

irfuPremier Rugby and the LNR revealed over the weekend that their proposed breakaway European tournament would be called ‘The Rugby Champions’ Cup’, and despite only being announced yesterday it has already been shot down by several key parties.

On that same day the FFR said it would not give its backing to a tournament that was not sanctioned by the ERC, and today the IRFU seem to have said something similar.

Peter Boyle, a representative of the IRFU on the management board of the ERC, has ruled out the possibility that any of the Irish provinces (funded in a large part by the IRFU) would join the new competition.

“The RFU and French Rugby Federation have already confirmed that there will be no new company other than ERC to run European competitions,” Boyle said to the Independent on Sunday.

“It is unequivocal that the negotiation of TV and other rights is central and it’s done by ERC. The IRFU are bound into ERC and that restricts completely the movement of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht.”

Boyle did concede, however, that the IRFU would be willing to negotiate a new qualification format to tackle the issue of automatic qualification from the RaboDirect PRO12, which is one of the main problems the English and French clubs appear to have with the current format.

10 thoughts on “IRFU set to reject English and French ‘breakaway’ plans

  1. Or perhaps we move to a scenario where we have the HC but with 20 sides, top 6 from each league, still on Sky?

    Leaves BT in the lurch. Leaves BT and PRL looking stupid for buying/selling TV rights to rugby that didn’t exist i.e English teams playing in Europe outside the ERC agreement.

    That looks like it would be the only negative fallout?

    Won’t happen I suppose because

    a) the BT deal is key to all of this. It will be incredibly ugly for financial and legal reasons for England to not be able to fulfill it.
    b) another key aspect of the English/French case is that they want to avoid each union having an equal vote on the ERC, they want 1 vote per league or 1 per club.

    Mess, mess, mess…. At least the idiotic Roger Lewis is refraining from publishing press releases on this thing. You usually can’t stop him.

    1. “At least the idiotic Roger Lewis is refraining from publishing press releases on this thing. You usually can’t stop him.”

      When he can’t find something more stupid to add to the debate you know it’s sunk pretty low.

      I don’t which way is up at the moment. Is the BT deal symptom or cause? Is it the root of all evil? Or was it a recognition that negotiation was going nowhere and the premiership had to determine the commercial value of a new competition? I’m lost, but sick of this race to the bottom where everyone loses.

  2. Hmm. Follow the money. I think the clubs even the French ones will sit it out for a year knowing they can afford it. Can’t help but think that the ERC have been as bad if not worse than the PRL and LNR

  3. It’s not credible to imagine that PRL/BT have not got a plan B written into their contract. This may be why they wont reveal the details other than to the RFU. They knew when they signed the contract that no european competition then existed. At worst the deal may prevent PRL clubs competing in a revived Heineken cup but it seems like they have no intention of doing that anyway, nor have the French.

    It now looks as if ERC are willing to accept changes to qualification and distribution of funds so the final stumbling block is likely to be the governance structure. I can’t see the English and French agreeing to go back into a structure where they are permanently outvoted There will have to be equal voting rights between the leagues and this would mean dissolution of the ERC as it stands. ERC wont accept that so we are probably looking at one or two years without the PRL and top 14.

    1. “The RFU and French Rugby Federation have already confirmed that there will be no new company other than ERC to run European competitions,” Boyle

      It seems to me the PRL and Top 14 don’t give a flying s**t about the interests of the national sides in world cups and test matches and are just out to line their pockets – same as ever in Europe – fat cats looking for more money.

      So basically, 3 national unions have come out IRFU, FFR, and RFU and agreed that they want the ERC still managing things and are open to the structure for qualification will be altered.

      Remember why the IRB got relocated to Dublin anyone? That’s right – money – number of clubs in England was seen as a trump card in a controversial decision taken by the England that left them out in the cold for years while Ireland, Wales and Scotland played each other competitively. There’s the same smell of greed and finance about this.

      We might see a 2-tier European format. Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy in a European competition, and France and England in another. We might see English and French players moving to the other leagues to stay on good terms with national unions as any new English French european format would be seen as a taboo as it’s quite clearly not backed by the unions, at least if what Boyle is saying is true. Or, we might see Irish, Welsh, Scot, Italian etc. players moving to France and England as those clubs would take much more TV royalties in a new format as France and England are much bigger countries with a bigger rugby following. Indeed, if rugby keeps growing in Italy, they could be the 3rd country to be in this group. But for now, poor quality teams like Zebre gaining automatic qualification seems to be the biggest bone of contention.

  4. I had wondered for a while if the BT agreement was nothing more than a posturing tool that BT were aware would possibly fall through with a clause to sew it up all nice.

    I don’t see how any of this is going to work though, it’s a mess. Seemingly the French will be forced by the FFR to continue playing in an ERC competition and the ERC rep in each of the ‘celtic’ unions will force them to not go into a new competition. The PRL still have 1 year left (supposedly) on a contract with the RFU that says they will remain in a European competition and the RFU have said they will hold them to it if a new tournament fails to materialise.

    So I suspect we’ll have another year of the competition and then England will threaten to pull out again and everyone will decide that it’s not much of a competition without England and we’ll have another mess.

    To an extent, all of the fighting and arguing and the inevitable disinterest in the cup will continue to happen until an agreement is reached more befitting the demands of PRL/LNR or nobody takes it seriously because half the teams aren’t playing properly out of protest.

    1. “and everyone will decide that it’s not much of a competition without England and we’ll have another mess.”

      Eh.. not really. If Ireland didn’t have any representation in a European competition, it might be an interesting time to see them play foreign, non European clubs. Life goes on. I don’t really care who Irish teams play. I follow them anyway. Without both England and France, it wouldn’t be much of a spectacle though I admit. If this is some money-grabbing venture/ploy by BT, then what can you do?

      South Africa were without international competition for some time dues to apartheid. They didn’t stop playing rugby..

    2. ”……..the French will be forced to continue……in an ERC competition” and the PRL will be forced by the RFU for a year….”

      I don’t think so. How can you force a private company/club to participate against their will? the Courts would have something to say about that, it would be a field day for the lawyers. Or perhaps they’d all send their ‘academy’ teams to compete

      The French clubs have stated publicly that whatever the FFR may say they will not take part in an ERC run competition nor it seems will the English clubs. We have to accept that we’ve reached the end of the line and the train has crashed . Maybe in a year or two when tempers have cooled we can rebuild but until then, unless one party or the other caves in, between them they have killed competitive european club rugby.

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