European rugby talks take ‘positive’ step

Efforts to form a top-level European rugby competition have intensified. Picture: Jane Barlow
Efforts to form a top-level European rugby competition have intensified. Picture: Jane Barlow
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The future of top-level European rugby competition finally took a tentative step towards a resolution after a “positive and constructive” meeting in Paris yesterday.

Welsh rugby officials are now confident in finding a solution to the long-running European conflict after a meeting in France, chaired by the Six Nations committee.

Representatives from all six unions and club bodies met in Paris, as efforts to form a top-level European rugby competition for next season intensify.

The Welsh Rugby Union described the meeting as “positive and constructive” in a statement. The Six Nations committee chaired this latest summit, as it seeks to form a competition that could potentially replace the Heineken Cup, run by European Rugby Cup (ERC). General signs of progress suggest the Six Nations committee could now be backed by all parties to continue setting up the new competition. The position of ERC remains unclear, but the WRU’s reaction to yesterday’s meeting represents the most positive development in months.

The WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union is pleased at the progress made at today’s Six Nations meeting in Paris towards agreement for the European competition structure from next season.

“Representatives of the WRU described the meeting of stakeholder nations and clubs as positive and constructive. The WRU continues to remain confident that the progress now achieved will lead to a positive outcome for all stakeholders. The cautious optimism is based on a detailed structure of actions to be pursued immediately.”

Chief executive Roger Lewis led the WRU delegation in Paris, with chairman David Pickering and finance director Steve Phillips also attending. The ever-present stumbling block of TV rights will be the next challenge to the Six Nations committee, assuming European club competition governance.

England’s Aviva Premiership clubs have long clung to their agreement with BT Sport over screening next season’s European action, while Sky continue to claim the rights. The English clubs’ governing body Premiership Rugby (PRL) has long since refused to accept a European competition ruled by ERC for next season.

ERC continue to hold board meetings, and, at the latest, refused to release overdue tournament appearance payments to the clubs, fearing liabilities should they be wound up at the end of the season.