Planet Rugby

Euro debate: Premiership clubs to meet

17th September 2013 14:30

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Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty and Premiership Rugby Chairman Quentin Smith

Going ahead: Premiership CEO Mark McCafferty

According to reports in the English press, all twelve Premiership clubs are to meet on Wednesday to discuss proposals for new European competitions.

Club officials will meet to discuss the creation of a revamped two-tier European competition to replace the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups should enough clubs decide to join Premiership Rugby's proposed Anglo-French tournament.

Last week the elite clubs from both countries announced their intention to quit the European competitions next year to create rival tournaments and have outlined a number of proposals.

Discussions between the two parties with the European Rugby Cup, organisers of the continental competitions, have been deadlocked for some time over a number of issues and it looks increasingly likely that this will be the last season of the Heineken and Amlin Cups as we know them.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty revealed that several clubs from other European nations, including three time winners Leinster, had already indicated an informal interest in becoming part of the revamped competition.

McCafferty also indicated that there was also contact from elite clubs outside the continent, including South Africa, and would lead to three 20-team events.

"In the debate over the future of European Rugby the second competition has been forgotten but it is crucial to its success. Anyone who is serious about creating better European club competitions must also focus on the second competition," McCafferty told the Telegraph.

"Our new European competitions will not only bring more money into European club rugby but it will lead to three competitive tournaments.

Various changes and proposals are still being discussed between all parties but one such suggestion has been firmly denied by Premiership Rugby. Reports on Tuesday suggested that the Aviva Premiership Final could be brought forward to February to accommodate the new European competitions but a spokesperson was quick to downplay any reports.

The European competitions provide a strong source of income for the majority of clubs, especially those involved in the Pro12, and its downfall would have huge ramifications financially, forcing clubs to buy into the new Anglo-French tournament without a second thought to simply survive.

One of the prime concerns of the English and French is that they feel the Pro12 clubs have an unfair advantage in terms of qualification for the Heineken Cup and McCafferty is confident a new format would eliminate any such problems.

"The top two tournaments will be more competitive than the current two so it will not only help club rugby but international rugby too," he said.

"There are many England Test players in the Amlin Challenge Cup so if the standard of that competition rises it will also help the England team.

"We would like to see two European competitions of 20 teams each and a third tournament involving teams from developing nations. Each season two teams from the developing nations would be able to play in the second competitions and there would also be access into the top competition.

"This season former Heineken Cup winners London Wasps and Bath Rugby are in the Amlin Challenge Cup so if it is good enough for them why isn't it good enough for teams from the Rabo Pro Direct? Last season the only Rabo Direct side in the Amlin was the Dragons. Promoted properly and with a higher standard it could become a very valuable tournament."

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