ERC chief executive Derek McGrath says the 'ERC supports and wishes to encourage everybody back to the table'. But are the French and English clubs listening?
IT may be in the sporting equivalent of a condemned cell, but the Heineken Cup isn't going quietly, with its advocates doing all they could yesterday to press the case for a reprieve.
ERC chief executive Derek McGrath led the way in a 45-minute Q & A with the press in which he refused to accept the 18-year-old tournament was doomed.
Then Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis chimed in with a few words in which he feted "the finest club competition in world rugby" and said it was simply too good to lose.
It didn't end there.
It was the Welsh and English launch of this year's European tournaments and there was the usual nostalgia fest, highlighting the most memorable moments in the events' histories.
The Miracle Match from 2003, which saw Munster beat Gloucester by four tries and 27 points to qualify for the knock-out stage, was recalled, along with Rob Howley's try for Wasps against Toulouse in the 2004 final and Austin Healey setting up Leon Lloyd for a dramatic score in the 2001 final.
Some wondered why there was no focus on Neil Back helping Leicester beat Munster in the 2002 final with his infamous back-hander, in which he broke the Irish province's hearts with blatant cheating minutes from time.
The Brive v Pontypridd on-pitch dust-up from 1997 stayed confined to the archives as well.
But the point was still well made: the Heineken Cup has been a superb tournament and doesn't deserve to be killed off because of self interest.
The situation has long since gone beyond being merely grave, however.
The English and French clubs are forging ahead with their own tournament, the questionably named Rugby Champions Cup, and have offered Pro12 sides the chance to join them.
They plan to exit the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge and have told ERC they will not be attending talks planned for October 23 and 24. Nor will they do business with the mediator who has been brought in, "because we are not in dispute with ERC".
Read that again: "Because we are not in dispute with ERC."
It is possibly the most ridiculous quote this entire 15-month saga has thrown up.
Short of firing a cruise missile at those who run the European tournaments, Premiership Rugby have long been in dispute with ERC. It is hard to imagine anyone of sound mind thinking otherwise.
Anyway, McGrath certainly seems to have twigged relations are less than cordial.
At its heart are the TV deals the English clubs and ERC have negotiated. The Aviva Premiership teams have a £152 million contract with BT Sport, while ERC has a fresh deal with Sky.
The thinking is among the clubs that if ERC falls then the Sky contract will go with them — which explains why numerous talking heads from the Premiership keep popping up in print and on TV to stress their favourite three little words: "ERC is dead."
It wasn't yesterday, with McGrath saying: "The only reason the clubs would not want ERC to continue would be to frustrate the Sky contract. That's something the board of ERC is not prepared to accept. We are committed to the (deals) the board has made."
Sitting alongside ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux, he also made an appeal to the recalcitrant clubs to start talking.
"ERC supports and wishes to encourage everybody back to the table. There is a lot of activity going on to try to find solutions," McGrath said at the Millennium Stadium.
"We have stated many times that we absolutely believe that we will only find agreement when we have the full engagement of all the parties around the table. We haven't had that yet.
"We haven't had engagement and we haven't had negotiation, which is critical to find progress. The door is still open to find solutions.
"There is still time, but all parties bear a responsibility to find those solutions, and walking away is not respecting the obligations to those, in particular, who are not sitting at the table — the fans, the players, the sponsors — who have a significant interest in the future of the competitions.
"We would like to get solutions as soon as possible. The meeting we have called for October 23 and 24 is not that far away if we can get proper engagement. We would encourage everyone to get back to the table because solutions can be found.
"We absolutely believe the future is best served by doing what we have all been doing for 18 years. I sincerely believe it is in everyone's best interests to come to the meeting."
Almost everyone present in Cardiff lamented the threat to the best thing that has happened to European rugby in the professional era.
Asked about the row, Ospreys skipper Alun Wyn Jones said: "I don't know if I'd say it was unsettling, but it's disappointing that it takes the focus away from what is a great competition."
Matthew Rees, these days skippering the Blues, chose to focus on his great memories with the Scarlets.
"I was fortunate to be part of a side that went unbeaten through the pool stages in 2006-07," he said.
"We emerged from a group that also contained London Irish and Toulouse and then beat Munster in the quarter-finals.
"That's the year for me. It was all about momentum and belief that season.
"It would be sad to see the Heineken Cup go. It's been a great competition and it gets better every campaign. Players want to play against the best teams and players in Europe, and that's what the Heineken Cup gives you."
Even Dylan Hartley, never a man to stay on-message, chipped in with his support.
"All the talk about the cup going is disappointing," he added.
"I've been extremely close to lifting the trophy and I still would like to do that in my time.
"But I'm just a player, I will play in any tournament I'm told to play in."
He also stressed: "If you're going to have a European Cup you have to have everyone from Europe in it.
"The big games are as close to international matches as you can get. Playing at a packed out Millennium Stadium in the final against Leinster was fantastic.
"Your not playing with your internationals colleagues but with the clubmates you graft with every week."
The door is still open, stressed McGrath.
But are the English and French clubs listening?