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SBD Global/September 18, 2013/Events and Attractions

Proposed Int'l Rugby Competition Could Move Premiership Final To February

Proposals to "move the Premiership final from the end of the season and to play European club rugby in a single block from March to June" are among the ideas being considered by leading English club owners as they "prepare to thrash out the detail of a new tournament to replace the existing union-run Heineken Cup," according to Robert Kitson of the London GUARDIAN. They are also keen to re-emphasize that "Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Italian sides are all welcome to join the new Anglo-French-driven competition, heading off complaints from the Celtic unions that the loss of Heineken Cup rugby would be a calamitous blow to the sport in their countries." What may change at "some stage is the structure of the season, previously hard to amend" when European Rugby Cup Ltd. controlled the Heineken Cup schedule. Under a new regime, "there might be scope for the Premiership to be played in its entirety between September and early February." That, in turn, would leave the way "clear for a 'new' Heineken Cup to be staged between March and June, possibly even involving provincial sides from South Africa" starting in '15. A Premiership "insider" said, "Potentially the Premiership final could be before the Six Nations. Then, if you ran a new Heineken Cup with the South Africans involved between March and June, that would be a pretty good competition for four months" (GUARDIAN, 9/16).

EUROPEAN CLUBS NEEDED: In London, Mark Souster wrote RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said he "backed the desire" of Premiership clubs to overhaul the Heineken Cup, but added that "any new format must be pan-European." He did not say whether he "would be happy to cede control of the tournament to clubs who have championed" the breakaway Anglo-French competition. Ritchie: “We want to see a meritocratic competition in Europe that is right, not only in terms of the competitive element, but it also applies in terms of the financial distrIbution element. The definition of a European competition means that you have got to have most of Europe participating in it. We would seek to achieve a European competition that involves clubs from the six nations" (LONDON TIMES, 9/18). Also in London, Chris Hewett wrote the dispute over the Heineken Cup has laid the foundation "for a boardroom row that could turn the next 24 months into a diplomatic morass." Ritchie and his counterpart at England 2015 talked up "the positive aspects of their World Cup Planning" but they were "aware of the landslide that will engulf them if the two sides in the European dispute remain at loggerheads" (INDEPENDENT, 9/17).
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