Gregor Townsend implores rugby unions to retain Heineken Cup format
GLASGOW head coach Gregor Townsend has praised the Heineken Cup as superior to the southern hemisphere’s “Super Rugby” competition and urged European unions not to endanger the tournament with changes.
Representatives of the Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, French and Italian unions met in Dublin for five hours on Tuesday to hear proposals by Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL), the umbrella organisation that represents English club owners, to create a new European competition after the current agreement ends in 2014.
It became an explosive affair last week when PRL revealed that they had signed a new £152m broadcast deal with BT Vision, which they claim would put more money into each of the unions than the one ERC have agreed with BSkyB, despite PRL not seeming to have a mandate to sell European games.
Tuesday’s meeting broke up with all unions agreeing to return to the debating chamber with the PRL in Rome on 8 October, and a likely compromise deal with some form of qualification from the RaboDirect PRO12 seeming ever-likely.
Townsend, who played Super 15 rugby with Natal Sharks, said: “We are all interested to see what the outcome will be.
“I believe the Heineken Cup is the best rugby tournament in the world. I’ve played in the Heineken Cup and Super Rugby and there’s more variety [in the Heineken], with the fact that away supporters come to games and the way it has developed with more countries playing.
“It’s a fantastic tournament and you just want to see it improve and the way it is already set up is great.”
The crux of the argument is essentially money, and the desire of English clubs, in particular, for a bigger share, but they are using an intriguing argument, that a remodelled competition, in which only the top six RaboDirect PRO12 clubs qualify for the Heineken Cup, is necessary to introduce the same levels of competition throughout the season across the English, French and Celtic/Italian leagues.
Townsend is confident that Glasgow will finish in the top six of the PRO12, but admits he is concerned that such a qualification could lead to one or two countries missing out.
“We’re talking about a league that is based in four countries. It’s not easy to say that the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Italian teams have to qualify when you’re talking about a league that isn’t based in one country, like the English or French championships. There is a benefit having a European cup with representatives from every nation.
“It’s great playing against Italian, Welsh, French teams; that’s what makes the Heineken Cup, having all of those nations involved.
“I can see their [PRL] side of the argument, but from my perspective it’s a great tournament and I hope there are no changes that are to its detriment.”
Glasgow flanker James Eddie went further, insisting that if the result of the meetings is that qualification comes into the RaboDirect from 2014, players would take it on the chin.
“That’s the way it’s looking,” he acknowledged, “but competition is good and if we do have to do that we’ll hopefully get results on the pitch and we will be in there.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West