Heineken Cup Talks Deadlocked As English Rugby Club Consider Alternatives
England’s leading rugby clubs "are set to consider a number of radical alternatives to the Heineken Cup at a board meeting next month that could shape the future of the European game," according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. Up for discussion "are a world club championship, a fourth England Test match every autumn and an expanded Premiership." An enhanced and expanded Anglo-Welsh competition, including a new sevens tournament, "is also expected to come under consideration as an alternative to the nine European weekends in the current season." Premiership Rugby "is to put the proposals to club owners and shareholders amid increasing frustration at the lack of progress on negotiations with its fellow European Rugby Cup stakeholders over the future structure of the current European competitions." The English clubs, along with their French counterparts, "are demanding reform of the Heineken Cup, including a reduction of the number of clubs from 24 to 20, a strengthening of the Amlin Challenge Cup and the introduction of a third-tier competition." While it would still prefer to strike a deal with its ERC stakeholders and make new European competitions work, Premiership Rugby "is not prepared to accept the status quo, which guarantees all four Italian and Scottish Pro12 clubs places in the Heineken Cup." After four stakeholder meetings, there "is still no sign of any agreement being reached." With no further meetings planned -- and it is understood the issue was not raised at the regular ERC board meeting last week ahead of this weekend’s quarterfinals -- "there is a growing sense of urgency in the English game to consider real alternatives" for the '14-15 season when, in the absence of agreement, the Heineken Cup "will cease to exist." The potential for increased revenues as part of the Premiership’s BT Vision deal for European games "could also tempt the Welsh regions to consider a new European competition if the dispute over the Heineken Cup is not resolved" (TELEGRAPH, 4/4).