Hore is not giving up on Heineken Cup
WALES'S four professional teams could each take an annual £1 million hit if the Heineken Cup falls by the wayside — but Ospreys chief Andrew Hore dismisses the idea that the game here is heading for the biggest crisis in the regional era.
The announcement of plans by English and French clubs to set up a breakaway European competition next season has left the Ospreys, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons staring at a huge potential void in their finances.
The Aviva Premiership and Top 14 have forced the issue after accusing European Cup Rugby Ltd of a lack of urgency in addressing their demands for a 20-team competition with tougher qualification from the Pro12 and revenues to be split differently.
The picture looks bleak for the Heineken Cup in the short term, but Hore hasn't given up hope that a way forward may yet be found. "Out of a crisis can come change," he said.
"The Heineken Cup is a great competition, one that we should all cherish, and I think it would be a huge shame if it were not around next season.
"But I haven't given up all hope on that front. There is a lot posturing going on. Clearly some people are dissatisfied, but I am not going to sit here and start wallowing in doom and gloom, because it needn't be that way for us as regions.
"As long as there's collaboration between ourselves and our governing body, I think we can find a way forward."
There is nothing in writing between the English and French clubs, no formal pact, just a joint commitment to form a united front and set up their rival European competition.
They hadn't even obtained backing from their own unions before the Aviva Premiership clubs made their announcement this week. Without that official endorsement, any breakaway couldn't go ahead.
They have left the door open for teams from other countries, while making clear they are prepared to have an Anglo-French tournament if no-one else wants to join, with the proceeds evenly split.
It all leaves the regions with thinking to do.
The troubled state of Welsh professional rugby means they can ill-afford to contemplate a seven-figure sum being taken out of each of their budgets each year.
The problem is the deal on the table is heavily stacked in favour of English and French, with recent figures suggesting clubs in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 would gain an extra £14 million a season while the Celts and the Italians would receive just £1.2 million between them — hardly a huge incentive to agree to change.
Undoubtedly, there will be some in the Pro12 who see the English, especially, as motivated by greed, but the announcement will undoubtedly have concentrated minds.
Following their meeting in Dublin, ERC yesterday issued a statement saying: "Despite recent reports, all parties involved in the formulation of a new ERC Accord, including the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and Premiership Rugby, have reaffirmed their commitment to the process. A meeting focused solely on the negotiations will be convened by ERC as soon as practicable.
"It was agreed that ERC would facilitate the discussions and that the current points of difference, including the share of central revenues, qualification and season dates, would all be on the table.
"The Board reiterated that European club competitions must be organised by ERC and that any purported cross-border club tournaments needed the approval both of the IRB, and of the relevant Unions who are shareholders of ERC."
"Surprise was expressed at the timing and content of the media announcements and representatives of both bodies were invited to explain their positions. It was pointed out that there was a range of proposals made by stakeholders, none of which were acceptable to all parties, and it was agreed that the negotiations towards a definitive solution needed to begin again in earnest."