English & French Rugby Clubs Confirm Exodus from Heineken Cup

September 23, 2013

Major rugby clubs in England and France have exited the Heineken Cup to form a new competition called the Rugby Champions Cup.

In an expected change the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 sides have been threatening the exodus as they weren’t happy with the current structure of the Heineken Cup which is organised by the ERC.

The clubs were insisting all teams – not just the English and French – should have to qualify to play in the top European competition.

Only the top six in the English and French leagues are guaranteed a place in the Heineken Cup, whereas at least 10 RaboDirect PRO12 sides – including both Scottish, both Italian and a minimum of three each from Wales and Ireland – have a free pass into the competition.

This season, of the 12 PRO12 sides, only Newport Gwent Dragons missed out on the Heineken Cup.

The Aviva Premiership teams and Top 14 teams say the Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Italians will all be invited to enter the new competition.

A Premiership Rugby statement said: “The competition will be based on the principles of qualification on merit, a strong competition format, equality between the leagues, higher commercial values for the teams and expansion into new European markets.

“The Top 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs have already confirmed their participation in the new competition and a joint working group has been created to prepare all necessary elements in good time for the 2014/15 season.”

Pro12 Teams Look to Join

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said they have received approaches from RaboDirect PRO12 teams expressing interest in joining the breakaway competition.

“Before we can release more details we need to know over the next few weeks which other teams will be joining the competition,” McCafferty said.

“We expect those discussions to continue over the next few weeks. Once we know the final, or close to final, numbers then we settle on the competition formats.

“Various people have approached us about the possibility of joining and we’ve indicated to them that we’ll keep their names confidential.

“We’ve heard that other people want to be involved in European competitions, that’s why we’ve left the door open and expect it to be more than an Anglo-French competition.

“Once people saw on September 10 that we would seek an alternative, interest has been expressed in at least knowing exactly what will be involved – the format, commercial and financial details as well.”

It remains to be seen whether the Rugby Football Union will back the breakaway competition but McCafferty is expecting their support.

“We’re asking for the RFU’s support against the background that there will be no ERC competition in which we’re taking part at the end of the season. We need to put in place new competitions,” McCafferty said.

“We ultimately expect to have RFU support and it’s in the interests of English rugby to have the teams playing in a good competition at the end of the season.

“If that scenario occurs where the RFU oppose what we’re doing, we’d have to look at the reasons for opposing it.”

FFR Against Move 

Any new competition will need approval from the English and French national federations and a statement from the French Rugby Federation (FFR) indicated they are not willing to lend their support.

“No meeting or international competition involving French clubs can be organised outside the framework of the FFR and without its prior agreement,” the FFR statement read.

“The FFR has always been and will remain a major player in the European cups organised by ERC and backs proposals to permit the continuity and development of these.

“If the FFR is in favour of an improvement in the European cups, their organisation can only be envisaged under the edict of the European federations which make up ERC.

“The statement released by the clubs appears therefore irrelevant and inappropriate.”

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