Unions reach agreement on way ahead for European rugby
A meeting of the front-line European rugby unions has led to agreement on the key issues of competition format and the distribution of money.
Representatives from Wales, England, France, Ireland, Italy and Scotland gathered for a meeting called by independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer in a bid to unblock the impasse that has set in at the top of the northern hemisphere game.
They met against a backdrop of leading English and French clubs threatening to press ahead with a new club-run tournament, the Rugby Champions Cup, in place of the Heineken Cup.
And the unions have gone a fair way to appeasing Anglo-French axis by agreeing to set up two streamlined tournaments, with the possibility of a third. Revenue would be split three ways, as the clubs have demanded.
The key issue of control, however, appears to have been left until another day.
The English and French clubs, who boycotted the meeting, have got most of what they wanted but they have been adamant that they want to run the tournaments rather than let ERC call the tune.
But there is at least some common ground on the need for revamping the tournaments and sorting out how the cash is doled out.
A statement issued on behalf of mediators Mew and Stephen Drymer ran: “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, 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 and the LNR, 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 7th placed PRL and LNR clubs. For the following years, the 20th club would qualify through a play-off between the 7th 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-off match, if not already qualified by right.
“The English and French clubs would have home advantage in the play-offs against the Pro12 clubs.
“The secondary competition which 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.
“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.”
There will be another meeting on November 1 to discuss a range of issues, including how to implement the principles and on matters related to operations and governance.