Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of the PRL, has promised that there will be no reversal of the Premiership clubs’ position as the row over the Heineken Cup rumbles on.
“We have had no proposals (from ERC Ltd) other than the status quo,” McCafferty told The Rugby Paper.
“As it stands, there is no European competition from the end of the coming season because the accord has been terminated. It’s over. Finished. There is no basis for a competition. To put forward the status quo as an option is not realistic given that we and the French gave notice in June 2012.
“I’d like to be able to say we are making significant progress but the reality is that nothing has moved forward since June. It’s frustrating that people take so long over these things. We would have been prepared to work through the summer on it. For all of us, the preference is to find a European solution and agree a new format but it’s got to be on the basis of meritocracy with no free passes into it.”
The Anglo-French proposal is for a uniform six-team qualification zone in every league, but this could feasibly lead to only two of the four nations that contribute clubs to the RaboDirect PRO12 gaining qualification in a given year. As a result, a caveat would be added that says the every nation must have at least one team represented in the Cup. How this would work in practice remains unclear. Would the team in 6th have to forfeit their spot if, say, neither of the Italian clubs finished above them? That seems highly unfair.
The current European cups generate around £44m per season. Twenty-four per cent of this goes to the English and French leagues (£10.56m each), while the remaining fifty-two per cent ends up with the RaboDirect (£22.88m) clubs. PRL’s new agreement with BT Sport – which is worth £152m over four years – gives them the ability to increase European Cup revenue from £44m to somewhere reportedly north of £70m. This new agreement would see the PRO12 clubs earn around £24m as their one-third share.
McCafferty added, “We have proposals on the table for the competition format, even distribution of money and a balanced governance between Unions and clubs. Our clubs are very strong on this and, if anything, the French clubs feel even stronger. They are getting very little money out of the competition and many of them are financially ambitious.
“We have gone through a series of unsuccessful meetings over the last nine months. As the reality of the situation dawns, maybe that will encourage them to find an alternative position. Am I pessimistic? That depends on what happens in September.”
McCafferty spoke of on-going talks with South African Super XV teams and NFL American football teams.
“We have to start putting some contingency plans in place,” he said. “The South Africans have been talking to us for the last few months. But the preference remains to find a European solution.” One suspects the majoirty of fans would agree.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Picture: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images