Peace looks to have broken out in European rugby row
A SHOWCASE European tournament next season, featuring teams from Wales, looks to have moved a step close today after “progress” was made between representatives from England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy and the Welsh Rugby Union today.
The Heineken Cup’s future looked to be a bleak one after English and French clubs threatened a breakaway in a furore over money and BT Vision’s aim to break into a market currently dominated by Sky Sports.
But peace may have broken out this afternoon – whatever a potentially new-format tournament will be called – after a statement was issued on behalf of independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer, tasked with keeping an accord, who have been talking to representatives of the six nations represented in the Heineken Cup, as well as Jean-Pierre Lux and Derek McGrath from European Rugby Cup, in Dublin this week.
It read: “Progress has been made on a number of issues relating to the future of European club rugby competition.
“The meeting concluded with consensus among those present on two key principles of competition format and distribution of revenues, and with agreement to meet again very shortly.”
On the competition format, including the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup which the Newport Gwent Dragons compete in, it added: “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 (Premier Rugby Ltd) and the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) 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 seventh placed PRL and LNR clubs.
“For the following years, the 20th club would qualify through play-offs between the seventh 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 statement added: “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.”
On the question of money, it concluded funds will be shared out equally among the three leagues: “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.”
Commenting on the statement, WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis said: "Our meeting in Dublin was very positive and constructive, and real progress has been made. I remain optimistic that European cup rugby will continue next year."
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