SCOTLAND’S pro teams look set to lose one of their two guaranteed places in European rugby’s top club competition, after representatives from Europe’s rugby unions set out plans to reform the current tournament set up.
At present, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby qualify automatically for the 24-team tournament, but that format looks set to change after the unions set out a plan mirroring the proposal from the English and French clubs for their planned Rugby Champions Cup.
• Unions agree plan for 20-team European Cup: 6 teams from England, 6 from France, 7 from PRO12 and one from a play-off
• Guaranteed Scottish presence to be cut from two teams to one
• French and English clubs boycotting meetings in Dublin, plan to set up their own competition
Independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer said that progress had been made on a number of issues after two days of meetings in Dublin, attended by representatives from the English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, French and Italian unions.
Crucially, though, top English and French clubs were not involved as they press ahead with plans for a Rugby Champions Cup next season that would replace the existing Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup tournaments.
Mew and Drymer said: “Progress has been made on a number of issues relating to the future of European club rugby competition.
“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 (RaboDirect) 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 a play-off 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-off match, if not already qualified by right.
“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.”
Regarding distribution of money to participants, the statement from the mediators added: “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.
“At our suggestion, all parties agreed to meet with us again on Friday, November 1 to discuss the implementation of these principles, together with important issues related to operations and governance.”
The Anglo-French breakway plan received backing this week from the four Welsh professional regions - Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons - which further weakened European Rugby Cup’s position.
As far as Premiership Rugby (PRL) and Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) are concerned, they will have no involvement in ERC-run competitions from next summer when a two-year notice period that they are currently serving is completed.