Rugby Teams From England And France Threaten Breakaway From Heineken Cup
The leading clubs in the Aviva Premiership in England and the Top 14 in France are "ready to organise an alternative tournament to the Heineken Cup," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. The clubs feel that European rugby's premier club competition "is weighted too heavily in favour of the Celtic nations." Irish teams Leinster and Munster have dominated the Heineken Cup in recent years. Rivals in England and France "believe the success of the Irish sides is largely because they are able to rest players regularly during the RaboDirect Pro 12 campaign as qualification for the following season's Heineken Cup is a virtual formality," something that is not the case in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14. Premiership Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said, "The clubs in England and France have served two years' notice that we intend to pull out of Europe because there needs to be a level playing field." The English and French clubs want to ration the Pro 12 involvement to the top six teams in the league, which "would run a risk of Scotland and Italy, whose teams currently qualify automatically, not being involved in a Heineken Cup campaign" (GUARDIAN, 8/22).