European rebels reply to Unions

Date published: October 25 2013

Premiership Rugby have issued a lukewarm welcome to Thursday's statement from the Unions on the future of European club rugby.

Premiership Rugby have issued a lukewarm welcome to Thursday's statement from European Unions on the future of European club rugby.

A two-day meeting in Dublin between the six European Rugby Unions, which was boycotted by Premiership Rugby and the LNR, ended with the national governing bodies arriving at two key agreements and making a number of concessions to the demands of the English and French clubs that have announced the formation of the new Rugby Champions Cup .

Where the problem now lies is regarding governance, with the leagues wanting full control of any new European competition rather than it being run by the Unions.

In a release later on Thursday, Premiership Rugby noted from statement on behalf of independent mediators Graeme Mew and Stephen Drymer that progress has been made on some key issues “although there remain some significant ones which have not yet been addressed.”

“Over the last few weeks of discussions, the French and English clubs have reiterated previous commitments concerning the Rugby Champions Cup and provided a number of new solutions for issues raised by the Unions in order to clear the way for other teams to participate, including:

• The new Rugby Champions Cup is proposed to be under the overall regulatory responsibility of the Six Nations for compliance with IRB regulations, the provision of disciplinary services and the appointment of match officials.
• The three Leagues will organise and manage the new Rugby Champions Cup competitions and maximise all the commercial rights.
• In the 20-team top competition, there would be 7 places guaranteed for the RaboDirect Pro12 league.
• Within the 7 automatic places, there must be at least one team from each country.
• The French and English leagues will provide a minimum financial guarantee for the teams from the RaboDirect Pro12.”

Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty took a cautious approach to the Unions' statement.

“I think we are still some way from a resolution,” McCafferty told the Guardian.

“I was surprised that the unions issued a statement before considering the other, bigger issues that need to be addressed. The Rugby Champions Cup is a club tournament that will be run by clubs and it will be done so in a far different, leaner and more cost-effective way than ERC.

“ERC is costly to run for a nine-weekend competition,” said McCafferty. “The LNR takes up more than half the year and the Premiership 26 weeks: both leagues are run by clubs under the regulatory guidance of their respective unions.

“It will be the same with the Rugby Champions Cup, where the board will be concerned with commercial issues and tournament organisation working in partnership with the unions who will be responsible for areas like referees, discipline and anti-doping.”