Premiership Rugby standing firm against ERC

The Aviva Premiership clubs met today and voted unanimously against participating in any ERC-led competition, releasing the following statement.

The Chairmen and Shareholders of Premiership Rugby met today to consider amongst other matters the situation and options related to European club rugby issues.

The English Clubs have unanimously re-confirmed their position. Having served notice in June 2012, they will not participate in any competitions run by ERC from 2014-15 season.
ERC does not structurally recognise the role of the leagues and clubs in driving the success of club competitions, under the overall governance of Unions. The ERC voting structure is controlled by Unions even though the majority of commercial value is created by the independent clubs which represent 75 per cent of the participants.

Proposals put forward to address a new structure within a Rugby Champions Cup were agreed by a majority of the Unions in October, alongside meritocratic competition formats and equitable financial distributions. However, these have not been accepted by all.

The English Clubs have worked exhaustively over the last 18 months to propose solutions to the issues with the current European competitions and to provide a sustainable platform to grow the game in the various countries.

The English clubs are now pursuing other options.

38 thoughts on “Premiership Rugby standing firm against ERC

  1. Wonder what the French will do now since they said they would only rejoin the ERC if the English came onboard.

    1. I would expect the LNR to stay within the HC – It looks like the FFR has got them by the balls – particularly when it comes to negotiating TV contracts.

      I am irritated that the PRL weren’t more cautious in their relations with the LNR – they should have had a clearer view about the realities of rugby in France.

      I don’t have a problem with the PRL leaving the ERC – if you can’t get a deal that works for you then you should be able to walk away. BUT they shouldn’t have burnt their bridges so thoroughly (shouting their mouths off about the RCC, claiming the ERC was dead etc)

      BUT they have burnt their bridges AND I get PRL’s frustration – the ERC represents the 6N unions only (no other European Unions and none of the Clubs).

      So now we wait to see what PRL can sell to BT, the viewers, their players and potential business partners (in Europe, the SH and, it was even suggested, North America)

  2. The Welsh regions are still with the English unless anyone knows anything different, and will the French stand by their caveat that they will only play with the English in the tournament ?

      1. This emphasizes the split between the independent clubs and the union owned regions runs across Europe. Unfortunately the Welsh regions seem to lack the financial resources they need, why? Wales has it’s share of millionaires and more than its share of rugby supporters what’s wrong with the region’s?

  3. I wonder what the English teams will do instead. Will that South African – European tournament come to fruition?

  4. Interesting that the release makes it clear this is about the power of ownership of rugby. All other major PRL demands have been met except the one that puts the clubs in charge. So this is actually, for the English, about a break from Union control and it looks like the other clubs don’t place quite such a high premium on that aspect. The ERC even offered that the clubs own the commercial part eg tv dea”s, sponsorship, etc. but that still wasn’t enough for PRL, they want the whole shebang. Seems utterly childish to destroy European rugby just for that.

    1. It’s been about control for all the rebels all along Brighty. A situation where 75% of the contributors/participants are not allowed a voice simply isn’t sustainable. Had they been listened to this situation could have been avoided 18 months ago. True PRL haven’t covered themselves in glory but there will have to be a rebalancing of power eventuality. Maybe it will take a few years with declining revenues to make all the unions see sense. Sky signed a deal with almost 70 million potential subscribers in mind. Without England that market shrinks to about 10 million. How long before sky want to renegotiate, might take 2 or 3 years but that maybe PRL s best strategy. If that destroys ‘European’ rugby then maybe it doesn’t deserve to survive. Domestic and internationals are the maim interest for most people anyway.

      1. Ray- you say 75% are not allowed a voice is not quite right. They have a voice but they want a louder voice than everyone else. I do not believe that the best interests of the game in Europe lie with the clubs, be they English, French or Welsh.

        My fear is that the clubs get their wish and first to get their marching orders are the Italians. Give it a year or two and then there will be no Scottish participation.Next the number of Welsh and Irish clubs will fall meaning the number of Celtic clubs fall as they cant keep their players and revenue falls. This is not due to any malevolence but due to the market forces generated by the two financially strongest leagues. You say that the future lies with international and domestic rugby but I would argue that both would suffer if the clubs were in control

        1. But surely if the reforms with regards to automatic qualification are put in place as offered by ERC then the Italians would struggle to qualify due to league position ? Isn’t this one of the fundamental problems in that automatic qualification is in place for some due to nationality instead of performance?

        2. If the club’s were listened to they wouldn’t’ have had to give notice to quit. In the proposed RCC there were to be 3 competitions Involving more countries ERC seem to be dropping even the Hamlin so fewer countries involved. Also the PRL wish for a new structure allows for the involvement of stakeholders from outside the 6 nations. Just because some owners are obnoxious – just like union politicians – doesn’t mean they are not interested in growing the game. Do you seriously suggest that international s were poorer before the HC?

      2. Ray, what 75% are not represented? Each 6Ns country has a vote. There can’t be 75% of the participants made up by non 6Ns countries?

        “had they been listened to” – not quite. Listening to them would not have avoided this chaos. The only thing that would have, as it is now clear, was 100% deference to the PRL view. There could be no debate because the PRL want every single one of their demands met. This is where I think PRL are at fault. To go into something assuming that you must get every single one of your demands or you will throw toys out of pram does not show any indication of an appreciation of your position as part of a collective organisation. While I agree with a lot of what they wanted I think they’ve demonstrated an ignorant truculence and, yes, arrogance to assume that this debate must finish with them getting every single one of their demands met. That is not a debate. That this PRL taking over. It’s not relevant that their view will, in some eyes, lead to more equitable representation. That’s only relevant if you agree with it it ie it’s debatable and hence should be negotiable. PRL are not interested in any compromise or negotiation, so this is simply conflict.

        I would say that your numbers skew things as well – Sky are savvy enough to know that as a %age of population the Irish and welsh outnumber the English massively – so it’s not 70 million versus 10, it’s more like 8 million versus 3 or 4. Still, the English are undoubtedly the commercial lions share of that but it’s worth noting that well over half of England actively detest rugby because of their perception of it as the “posh boy” sport.

        Your point does summarise partly, for me, why this issue will never be resolved – you see the clubs owning the thing as “the unions seeing sense”. This is the problem with the tone of the debate that the administrators are having. As far as you are concerned it is self evidently common sense that PRL are right and by implication anyone who disagrees lacks even basic sense. This puts the debate instantly into a strongly adversarial one rather than a “you show me yours, I’ll show you mine, and we will see what comes out the best” approach.

        1. 75% not listened to are the 30 clubs out of 38 which wanted change and which provide most of the resources and input to the competition. The unions could have avoided this had they agreed to changes before relations broke down had they done so the structure would not have become an issue at all imo. Someone I forget who likened the structure to a master – serf relationship. The English, French and increasingly the Welsh clubs are simply declining to be serfs anymore whilst the unions strive to maintain the status of master. What annoys me is that it was obvious that any serfs with the power to rebel would eventually do so and the opportunity was lost to forge a more equal relationship, a partnership. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is what matters is that any competent organisation should have seen what was coming and proactively managed and controlled the transition.
          To me it doesn’t look like PRL wanting everything more a case of we don`t want to be involved with an organisation that has failed repeatedly to address our issues so we shall seek alternatives surely they have a right to do that. Hopefully the Welsh regions will hold their nerve and test the relationship in court.

          1. I can see where your 75% comes from – so what this means then is we move to a HC where the French and English tell everyone else what to do because they have the most clubs? That will work well and won’t make the Irish/Welsh/Scottish positions untenable at all.

            If you want to have a Euro comp then you need to split the governance along European lines, not on “we’ve got the most clubs” – if you split it along club count then you don’t have a European comp, you have an English/French comp where a few others are invited along as long as they toe the English/French line.

            I can see good arguments for changing governance e.g. 1 vote per league, or 2 votes each for England/France based on size, etc. which would all be decent compromises but a) shouldn’t be enough the derail the whole thing and b) should be compromises. The bad governance here is the English refusing to deal with ERC any more because they feel ERC have been incompetent so far. Any grown up organisation will have the stomach and professionalism needed to deal with “bad” organisations (of which there are many in this world) rather than pick their ball up and take it home because the organisation took too long, in their opinion, to get anything sorted.

            Don’t get confused by the Welsh regions approach. This is totally separate to European rugby and has been brewing for a long, long time. They’ve just folded some of the Euro beefs now into their existing issues.

            I for one do not want pro rugby to be run by clubs. The likes of Leics/Sarries/Saints etc, while having the largest commercial clout, do not give a stuff for the likes of me, my club or my country. Any system that enables them to be in charge will simply funnel more money and more power to them, to the detriment of others. It’s the football model where advertising eyes (and let’s be honest, this isn’t about rugby fans, it’s about the num of eyes you can get your brand in front of once size/money/clout becomes the dominant reason to assign governance) is supreme and hence we will end up with leagues full of SH players, crap international teams and more fans in “new markets” than on the doorsteps of the actual teams themselves. Sarries et al already want to play some of their “home” games in USA, SA, etc. to “expand the game” which really means “expand the advertising eyes” as it doesn’t do anything for enabling the local, died in the wool Sarries fan to attend his teams matches.

            In short, chasing the money cannot be the only guiding factor when making decisions. Size/clout/finances cannot be the only reason to define rugby structures. If they are then it will kill the game. There has to be balance. PRL are now showing zero balance by refusing to countenance taking part in a tournament which has agreed to change.

            1. Surely no worse than the Celts writing the script because they happen to have more unions. Maybe the answer is two separate competitions. A union competitions and a club competition with a grand final between the winners. That way everyone is happy.

              1. I think 1 vote per league would have worked (or, as with the IRB, two votes for “special” unions), and is something that could be worked towards now all other requirements have been met. That’s my main beef now with the PRL position – they want all or nothing right now; all demands met or no participation. This isn’t realistic – to assume you will get all of your demands met in the first round of change shows a remarkably naive approach to negotiation. PRL should now work with ERC, during this “transition year” to see if they can get governance changed to be more to their liking – though still perhaps not exactly what they want, but that’s why they call it compromise.

                I suspect the real reason they won’t is the BT deal which would be in direct conflict with ERCs SKY deal.

              2. Would also say that another part of the problem is the random grouping of “Celts”. We’re not all genetically programmed to agree with each other! :-) The idea that we all agree and hence want to write the same script is also far from the truth – there’s a lot of disagreement amongst the Celts as to the best way forward as well.

                1. I agree with you about voting rights. A split where each league had 6 votes and then 1 vote for each union in addition giving 24 votes in total. This would give a fair balance between clubs and unions. I believe the reason PRL won’t join for a transitional period is because they’ve done it before and then found themselves trapped in a minority I.e. they don’t trust ERC. The TV deal may also be a factor but they didn’t really have much choice about that. It was only when the deal was announced that ERC started to take things seriously when it was demonstrated that RCC could pay more than ERC. Look how they panicked to sign up sky. As far as I’ve seen the unions haven’t made any move ‘re governance.

                2. As far as the grouping of Celts together is concerned I’m sure you are right. However the amount of anglophobic ranting we are subjected to makes many of us tend to ‘a plague on all your Celtic houses’ I hasten to add this is one of the few forums where there is little if any bigotry in evidence with perhaps one exception

                3. Most of the parties distrust each other. That this has now led to a point where they will no longer even work together shows how crap all of our administrators are. The ERC not inviting PRL to that recent meeting was ridiculous. They all need to be replaced.

  5. Well it seems like 12 severed noses and 12 spited faces to me.

    Think they should have followed the lead of the French and agreed to play for one more season and sort out the governance from inside the tent rather than urinating on it from the outside.

    I supported what the clubs were trying to achieve with the RCC, it was a genuine grow the game, grow the cake everyone benefits option (but not how they went about achieving it). Rather than the ERC approach of we don’t care about growing the game, as long as we remain in control. Yes of course there is self interest at heart, but at least they had found an option where self interest and the growth of the game were not mutually exclusive. People have assumed that this is about putting more money in the coffers of the big clubs, actually it’s the smaller clubs that are far more reliant on their TV income (as gate receipts and other commercial income is smaller TV money makes up a far greater percentage of their income). This was actually about helping to keep the playing field level.

    However given RCC is no longer a reality I can’t see what good, in the long run, will be achieved by staying out. The French, with their vast new TV deal that dwarfs the BT one, are not reliant on growing the game globally for their financial security and success. Big income from a European comp was in my view the only hope to keeping things reasonably balanced. I fear what we have to look forward to is a French “premiership” an English “championship” and a semi-pro 12.

  6. This all happened because ERC refused to recognise the grievances of the English and French clubs and refused to discuss them in any meaningful way (I believe!). From what I can see, the English and French clubs had some fair points.

    What has happened since then has been pathetic – from all parties. The ERC are chucking out one of their prize pulls, the English clubs have chucked the baby out with the bathwater, and everyone has been so public that now they can’t do a U-turn without losing face. I teach my juniors in the office better negotiating tactics than this. Intransigence in negotiations is fine when used in the right circumstances but always have a plan B if this doesn’t work. Infantile decision making has now backed the protagonists into a corner. To be bluntly honest it serves all of the parties right and when they next come to the table I hope they remember the lessons of this time.

    As a fan, I will lose out, and I am hoping that all of the contracts for new front row players have been signed and sealed as Glos may not be quite as attractive to new players now without European rugby. Interesting that the Hibbard story seems to have gone quiet. I wonder if this is the reason. Hope not.

    I’d hoped that sense would prevail. I’d forgotten that rugby is ruled by a cartel of pigheaded administrators who can’t see someone else’s point of view even when it smacks them in the face. Well done gentlemen, thanks for looking after the gravy train that call themselves supporters.

  7. I suspect the PRL have something up their sleeve and have not made the decision to ditch the ERC on a whim. We all thought they’d ‘see sense’ now that the French have decided to return (albeit with caveats) and there was talk about the next season being a transitional one before moving away from the ERC-run environment. But they haven’t. Mmmmm, strange.

  8. I think we’re in danger of being in violent agreement. Brighty thinks all Staggy’s ‘pig headed administrators’ should be replaced. Hard to disagree with that. I think it was Rob Baxter who said, when backed into a corner by a journalist, when something’s this messed up the sensible thing is to start again with a clean sheet of paper (and new negotiators)

    1. Must …………. stop ……………… agreeing ……………….. with ……………… Brighty!!!!!!!! :-) Damn I’m even going to have to start liking Hibbard if he signs!

  9. Interesting article by Paul Rees in the guardian ‘re Ian Ritchie ‘s latest attempt to broker a deal. He seems to be the only one to emerge from this mess with any credit, no pontificating in public. Maybe there is still a very faint hope of a deal. I hadn’t realized that the French federation wanted a new governing body based in Geneva after the transitional year -rip ERC. I think PRL s only hope of a permanent solution would be an Anglo-Welsh league but that is so difficult legally I don’t think it can be done in time.
    For some reason the link to the guardian article refuses to copy and paste – apologies

    1. Ray, I read that and had similar thoughts. Ritchie was lambasted for sitting on the fence while everyone else was posturing, but his approach may yet pay dividends as he is the only one who hasn’t backed himself into a corner. Unusually for an English sports governing body! Lets hope he can pull off a miracle.

      Best we can now hope for IMO is a transition year next year and a new competition the year after.

      1. Not just English or rugby governing bodies Staggy. These bodies are composed primarily of people who attain their power by politicking their way to the top. They may be well intentioned but mostly they end up confusing the ‘good of the game/sport’ with the good/power of the ‘organisation’ ie themselves – just like politicians everywhere. At least with clubs and their backers you know where they stand.

        In Ireland, Scotland and Italy there is no inependant counter to the power of the unions. In England it does appear that the PRL and RFU are, after some painfull debates, finding a reasonable balance of power/working relationship. Maybe that is what has kept Richie grounded. The WRU seem to an outsider intent on squeezing the life out of the regions and it would appear to be reaching the bareknuckle stage with talk of legal action and unions trying to sign players away from the regions. Who knows where it will end. And of course there’s the French, who are well, just French.

    2. I wouldn’t assume the ERC is dead Ray. The LNR say lots of things. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a new governing body

      1. The whole point is it is NOT the LNR that seems to be saying this but the FFR i.e. the French Union. The French clubs, the LNR, having made their opposition to the ERC crystal clear until bribed and bullied by the FFR but, if as is suggested, the FFR have made their support for ERC conditional on a new body next year there is clearly room for optimism.

  10. “The English Clubs have worked exhaustively over the last 18 months to propose solutions to the issues with the current European competitions and to provide a sustainable platform to grow the game in the various countries.”
    How can they say that when they refused to attend any meetings with the Unions? The PRL have unilaterially signed a TV deal for a competition they dont own. How can any other ‘partner’ trust them after that? They dont own rugby union, the unions do. If their ‘business model’ does not suit playing rugby union then they should go and form a breakaway much like rugby league and stop bloody moaning. The state of welsh rugby is worrying (there are parallels with the english game). It does seem as if the WRU have decided to dispense with the Regions (whats left of em) and go the central contract route. The club owner thing does not work, look at the majority of the english clubs. Maybe the RFU should do the same!

    1. It really is time to move on from these, frankly overdone, arguments. Just accept the facts and look to the future. Rightly or wrongly PRL and NRL have been attempting to agree changes to the HK for years. Equaly rightly or wrongly ERC fillibustered and hoped the Anglo/french would run out of time and panicked when the RCC was floated and PRL came up with a much improved TV deal which they were prepared to share. In the short term there is no agreement so PRL are doing their own thing, not their first choice but they can live with that it seems.

      Much more important and worthy of discussion is the point that Brian More makes in todays Telegraph about the longer term ambitions of the French. If it is true that FFR want to set up a new Governance structure based in Geneva and involving the Unions outside the six nations cartel then this will really test the ERC/unions claims that they want to grow the game if their priveleged position is threatened. This is a very credible view. The French being French must get really frustrated by the dominance of the English language speaking countries in IRB and six nations. Even the refs speak english. If as Brian suggests there is any truth in the pernicious influence of the Irish in Dublin, and having followed thge ERC debacle in the Irish press I find it easy to believe, that will make them even keener to break the six nations cartel.

      Interesting times ahead but the only certainty is that there will be change.

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