Welsh and Scottish Unions also reject Rugby Champions Cup plans

Following hot on the heels of the IRFU’s announcement that it would not back the English and French clubs’ proposal for a Rugby Champions Cup, and in what is clearly a co-ordinated message, the WRU and SRU have issued statements reaffirming their support for the IRB and ERC.

Their statements read:

“Scottish Rugby and its clubs remain fully committed to the development of a pan European Rugby Competition and we welcome the recent comments made by the IRB Chairman, who confirmed that a pan European tournament remains the goal of the IRB. We are confident this can be achieved.

“Scottish Rugby remains committed to working with our colleagues across Europe and encourages all parties to fully engage in meaningful negotiations. We hope that negotiations can be concluded quickly.”

“The Welsh Rugby Union remains fully committed to the development of a pan European Rugby competition. We welcome the recent comments made by the International Rugby Board Chairman, who confirmed that a pan European tournament remains the goal of the IRB.

“The Welsh Rugby Union wishes to clarify that it will not sanction any of its clubs or Regions participating in future tournaments which do not have the full approval of the IRB and the WRU.

“The WRU wants an agreement to be achieved and reiterates its determination to negotiate a new format for the European Cup with all of the stakeholders. The WRU’s focus is to work collaboratively with our colleagues across Europe, encouraging all parties to conclude our negotiations as quickly as possible.”

These statements further muddy the waters as to how feasible the Rugby Champions Cup actually is from a legal standpoint, and whether it will include any teams other than French and English clubs.

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

11 thoughts on “Welsh and Scottish Unions also reject Rugby Champions Cup plans

  1. Maybe I’m just a born optimist but I see cause for hope in these announcements. I think i’s significant that all the Celtic unions are saying any competiton must be authorised by IRB. Unless I’ve missed something they make no mention of ERC, are they recognising that ERC is now a dead duck as PRL/NRL wont deal with them and throwing the problem upstairs to the IRB? If so this opens up the door for PRL/NR to negotiate direct with IRB and jointly design a competition acceptable to all (apart from ERC)

    There is an opportunity here for some smart negotiators/mediators (if there are any amidst the wreckage) to get in there and broker a deal that, like all good compromises, will allow both parties to claim they’ve won! For gods sake go for it someone- anyone!

    1. I was wondering the same last night Ray. Putting a few things together from the last few days

      – IRB have said they will sanction comp if RFU and FFR sanction it. I think RFU have said they will, anyone remember what FFR have said?
      – WRU/SRU/IRFU/ITALY (sorry, can’t remember acronym) have said that if IRB sanction it then they will let their clubs play in it

      So the only people left out of this are the ERC and this is what LNR/PRL want anyway?

      Reading all of the stuff over the last few days I am convinced that PRL will fight tooth and nail to keep ERC out of this primarily because of the BT deal. I think BT have PRL by the balls so there is little wiggle room for them. Of course it’s not a problem for PRL as the money on offer is phenomenal. My concern is that when BT do a Setanta (and they will, I strongly believe this) I would be very, very concerned that we’d gambled our clubs futures on a 3 year BT TV deal that is now dead.

      1. There’s a real opportunity here provided the EGOs don’t get in the way again. You’re right that ERC will have to go to facilitate the BT deal but PRL and NRL had lost patience with them as well, they dont want the existing ERC set up to be the starting point they want a clean sheet.

        I don’t think the BT deal is anything to worry about. PRL in any event can only sell the rights to their home games can’t they? so the other clubs will have a big say in the matter, all to be negotiated as part of the deal. In 3 years time or however long a deal is struck then either the competition will be popular with large audiences in which case the rights can be tendered for large amounts. Or it’s not successful and no one wants the rights in which case we’re stuffed whoever owns them .

        BT seem to be doing a pretty good job so far with the Aviva coverage. If you haven’t seen it yet I recommend you tune in on Sunday for the Exeter v Leicester game, although I’m not over confident about the result!

        1. Ray, I believe that PRL have sold their rights for their away games in Europe as well. This is one of the contentious details of what is going on here but I can’t find anything unambiguous on this – I see mentions of “All European games involving English teams” but it’s not clear that it is home games only. Even if they haven’t the way those funds will be shared out is part of PRL/FFRs offer so there is no (as far as I can see) negotiation on it. Interestingly I see that from the BT deal each English club will make far more money from European rugby than domestic rugby so a) they had better sort out a comp soon, for the interest of English clubs as well and b) I doubt BT will pay top price for just an Anglo/French comp as half the games could be repeats of PRL games?

          I think the BT coverage is fine (other than a massive personal distaste for Austin Healey but that’s tempered by the fact that Larry, who I do like, also seems to hate him). BT have bet the farm on their new channel, primarily the footie. The rugby is, like it or not, a tiny part. They did this to get people to buy their broadband from BT. Two things have since happened a) they were more or less forced by the Prem Footie League to sell the channels to Sky and b) BT didn’t sell enough broadband off the back of the deal so also had to sell the channels to Virgin to make money. For those of us on Virgin the BT sport channels are free so no incentive to switch. SKY customers get enough kickbacks etc. to avoid feeling the need to swap broadband supplier to get BT sport for free, they’d rather pay SKY the exta £5 a month. So BT’s big gamble of this driving broadband sales crumbles. They’re only going to get those customers who a) love sport and b) don’t already have Virgin or SKY. Not many of those about. Add in the fact that BT broadband is an inferior technology to Virgin and no sig. better than SKY and really it seems to me that they’ve just paid out hundreds of millions for pretty much nothing. Share holders will go nuts, deals will not be renewed or possibly even closed early due to lack of funds…. As I said, basing a new Euro comp on how much a brand new and untested Sports broadcaster is willing to pay for it, a broadcaster that may well lose it’s footie in the next bidding round so loses 90% of it’s viewers anyway … sounds risky to me.

          1. I know precious little about image rights etc but a couple of things strike me. PRL very clearly cannot sell rights to games between say Racing and Leinster or Cardiff and Edinburgh so either the cash that PRL are putting on the table is only for ‘English’ games about a quarter of total games – so how much more cash is available for all games? or, much more likely the money mentioned is the offer that PRL have got from BT for all games but it can’t be a contract, that would be ultra vires, it must just be an offer. That may well explain PRLs reluctance to reveal details at this stage.

            If BT have bitten off more than they can chew why should that worry us? they are big boys. At the end of the day Heineken mark 2 will have a commercial value for good or ill and we just have to live with whatever that value is. However on that point maybe this is where the clubs can add real value, as business men then I think they are probably far better able than the unions to maximise the commercial value of the competition – horses for courses.

            I keep reading comments about PRL getting cash mainly for europe but I can’t find anything to substantiate that belief. I seem to recall reading that the overall deal was worth over £150 million to PRL. The most recent announcement suggests 60-70 million Euros say £60million for the ‘heineken mk 2’ where is the other £90-£100million going, couldnt be the Aviva could it? I dont really know but some research was published recently that claimed that 25% of the population of England had ‘an interest’ in rugby and the premiership – yes that surprised me too – thats a potential audience of about 13 million people so not too hard to believe it has a good commercial value. A lot of people in the Celtic areas under estimate the Aviva.

            1. Slightly off topic but interesting : I don’t know anyone who underestimates the pull of the Aviva. As I’ve said before, there are more people in the Tigers catchment area than in Wales. There’s no doubt it’s got the potential population size.

              The Setanta crash almost killed the lower football divisions – they were paying salaries and fees in line with that TV money. When it stopped they were in dire financial straits and Sky were able to pick it up for a song as there was no competitor. Just because BT value it at 150 mil doesn’t mean anyone else will. I think BT overvalued it to ensure they had something to launch with. I doubt we’ll see a deal of that size again.

              I don’t think an interest in rugby will translate to subscribing to a new and minority TV channel, let alone getting BT broadband installed just to have it.

              As for the BT deal – yes, it’s all a bit murky but various things I’ve read indicate about 1/3rd of it for the PRL and 2/3rds for Europe. That 2/3rds would be for everyone in Europe, not just the English. So effectively England negotiated the TV rights for everyone. Well, if they got a good price then I guess it doesn’t matter who negotiated it. So I was wrong – if that’s the case then about 33 mil for England in their proposed cup format, 50mil for the PRL.

              However, I’ve also read that the BT deal is “50% more” than the SKY deal for PRL, That was £18 which therefore makes it ~27mil so ~120mil for Europe, 40mil for English clubs. If that one is right then England needs the Euro comp to really benefit from the new deal (though 50% more for the PRL only is nothing to be sniffed at). 3.33mil per club.

              The sticking point then will be how the Rabo divvys up the 40 mil. This is Rabo’s problem so shouldn’t stop the deal imo but it will be interesting. Per club? Assigned per year based on geting to the cup? Split 4 ways between the Unions? If the latter then this ends up with 2.5mil per Welsh club. Seems reasonable BUT you can see that when someone says 3.33mil for English clubs vs 2.5mil for Welsh clubs then an argument is going to kick off as now the English clubs will effectively be being paid more for matches against Welsh sides. Sounds ok to me (commercial clout, etc.) but I can see it being a contentious point.

  2. As far as divying up the RABO cash goes I think it has to be equally between the 12 clubs/regions. Especially so when qualification of say the top 6 comes in. Any professional setup needs to be able to plan its finances 2 or 3 years ahead so in a case where a club doesnt know from one year to the next if they’ll qualify how can they plan? No one wants a situation where a region has to fire players because they didnt qualify this year. There’s also a strong argument that says the clubs failing to qualify make a real contribution by making the qualifying competition competitive. Of course that would be up to the unions because they’d control the cash but as you say could be interesting to watch. I also think there is a case to be made for favouring Italy and Scotland on the grounds they need more financial help but would the Welsh and Irish accept that do you think?

    Also off topic but interesting there seems to be a belief among some celtic posters that the whole idea is to increase wages in the PRL and steal more celtic players. Have they not heard of the salary cap? I dont think many PRL clubs would be in favour of raising it. Where one or two of the richer clubs have raised the issue it’s been in the context of squad size and the need to compete with the big french and Irish clubs who, it’s claimed, can effectively field two first teams. maybe there will be a move away from a total sum cap to an average cost per player cap thus allowing for bigger squads without individual wage inflation.

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