THE battle for control of rugby’s European Cup was reignited last night when the SRU and fellow unions issued a statement pledging their commitment to a Heineken Cup that could go ahead without English, French and Welsh teams.
The English clubs, under the umbrella Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL) organisation, responded by stating that their plans to create a new “Rugby Champions Cup” with the French and Welsh clubs, and any others who take up their invitation, remained on track.
The Scottish, Welsh, Irish, French and Italian unions met in Dublin yesterday – the RFU were notable by their absence – and emerged to back the authority of the European Rugby Cup (ERC) and insist that the tournament will continue, albeit in a new, unspecified shape.
“All five unions believe that it is critical to the interests of the game in Europe that the Unions are at the heart of the governance of cross-border club competitions given that rugby in each country is organised in a pyramidical structure,” read the statement on behalf of all the unions.
“Clubs, provinces and regional organisations form an integral part of the development of the game throughout this structure, from grassroots to the international game. Cross-border club competitions must not conflict with the development of the sport in Europe by Unions, this being in the best interest of players, spectators and the sport in general.
“The five Unions reconfirmed their agreement with the new competition formats and financial distribution formula previously agreed by the six Unions who attended the mediated meeting in Dublin on 23-24 October.
“Following today’s discussions, the five Unions have agreed a European club competition is to take place during the 2014/2015 season following an optimised sporting and economic format with 20 teams, no matter how many countries are involved.”