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Volume 10 No. 25

Events and Attractions

The Heineken Cup, "one of professional rugby's biggest success stories, was driven closer to oblivion" when the leading clubs in England and France announced that planning "was under way for a rival two-nation tournament to be launched next season," according to Chris Hewett of the London INDEPENDENT. In a "fierce declaration of intent," England and France gave provincial and regional teams in the other "major European nations -- Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy -- a maximum of six weeks to join them in their new venture." Premier Rugby CEO Mark McCafferty said, "We made it clear more than a year ago that we would withdraw from the Heineken Cup as it is currently constituted at the end of this season." Together with the French, the other "major financial drivers in the European club game," the English clubs have long been "dissatisfied with the structure of the Heineken Cup, arguing that the qualification process is loaded against them and complaining of weak performance in both the commercial and governance spheres" (INDEPENDENT, 9/10).

OVERHAUL DEMANDED: In London, Gavin Mairs reported the central demands of the English and French clubs have been an "overhaul of the Heineken Cup including a reduction in the number of teams from 24 to 20 and an equal three-way split in revenue between the Premiership, the French Top 14 and the RaboDirect Pro 12." These demands were "rejected by the Celtic and Italian clubs, and despite more than a year of stakeholder meetings and behind-the-scenes negotiations, the new season has begun with no sign of an agreement." McCafferty said, "We really have to start putting in place something that we can run from 2014-15 onwards. The French are already at round five and we have just started and everyone wants clarity." McCafferty said that discussions with the French clubs "would begin 'almost immediately'" to agree to a format for the new competition, with one option seeing "all 26 clubs from both leagues playing in a competition that would continue to run during the current nine Heineken Cup weekends." BT Sport will televise the new competition as part of its deal "struck last year with the English clubs which will trigger the full payment" of the £152M deal signed last year. McCafferty: "They [BT Sport] want like we do a European competition but are equally clear that an Anglo-French competition will be very strong commercially and sporting wise." The combining of the TV deals in England and France alone "should see the value of the competition rise" from £10M-£30M ($15.8M-$47.5M) per season (TELEGRAPH, 9/10).

REVENUE NEGOTIATIONS AT IMPASSE: In N.Y., Emma Stoney reported the English and French "also want the revenue split equally among the Premiership, the Top 14 and the Pro 12." Under the current rules, the Pro 12 gets 52% of the revenue, while the English and French get 24% each. The Pro 12 teams "do not want to give up their guaranteed spots and the additional revenue, and negotiations have reached an impasse." Pro 12 teams "depend heavily on revenue from European rugby, and any tournament that does not involve English and French sides will be far less attractive to broadcasters" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/11).

'DEMISE WOULD BE UNPOPULAR': The BBC reported European Rugby Cup said that "all parties involved in the consultation process would be represented at a scheduled meeting of its board in Dublin on Wednesday" (BBC, 9/10). The PA reported the Heineken Cup has been "highly successful" since it was introduced in '95 and its "demise would be unpopular" (PA, 9/11).

'NO WINNERS': In Belfast, Niall Crozier opined if the "biggest, most popular and best-supported tournament in northern hemisphere club rugby is allowed to wither and die as a result of intransigence, there will be no winners." Such an outcome "would deal rugby in all six countries a massive blow." What is "at risk of extinction is European rugby's flagship competition." While one is "tempted to say that does not bear thinking about, the polar opposite is true -- it really has to be thought about since unless the matter can be sorted out very soon to everyone's satisfaction, European rugby is going to be dealt a shattering blow eight months from now" (BELFAST TELEGRAPH, 9/11).

As the deadline for candidates to "inform UEFA of their candidacy to host matches of the 2020 European Championships beckons, Istanbul, Budapest and Belgrade have officially thrown their hats into the ring," according to Mark Baber of INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL. Euro 2020 will be co-hosted by "13 venues in 13 countries." Initial applications are "due to be delivered" by Thursday, with "detailed bids to be delivered to UEFA" in April (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 9/11). REUTERS' Philip Blenkinsop reported the Belgian FA will propose Brussels as a venue for Euro 2020 (REUTERS, 9/11).

WEMBLEY OUT: The PA's Martyn Ziegler reported England is "expected to drop plans" to bid for the Euro 2020 final and semifinal at Wembley after confirmation that Istanbul "wants to host the climax of the tournament." The FA will, however, "proceed with a bid" to stage group games and a quarterfinal. UEFA President Michel Platini has previously said that "he would back Turkey for Euro 2020 if Istanbul's Olympic bid was unsuccessful" (PA, 9/11).

AMSTERDAM INTERESTED: XINHUA reported the Dutch FA (KNVB) has "officially expressed its interest to propose Amsterdam as one of the host cities" for Euro 2020. The "municipality of Amsterdam," Ajax stadium, the Amsterdam ArenA and the KNVB will now "further discuss the possibilities of a definite bid" (XINHUA, 9/11).

ESPANYOL APPLYING: EL PERIODICO reported La Liga side Espanyol will present its Cornellá-El Prat stadium as a candidate for a host site for Euro 2020. Espanyol "submitted the request" through the Spanish Football Federation. The stadium's capacity means it will "only be able to host games in the group phase because the later stages of the tournament require larger stadiums." UEFA will decide on the host sites in Sept. '14. Espanyol's stadium "was the most modern in Spain" until Athletic Bilbao's new San Mamés stadium was built (EL PERIODICO, 9/10).

Glasgow 2014 CEO David Grevemberg has vowed "to protect the Commonwealth Games from being hijacked by either side of the Scottish independence debate," according to Alex Lowe of the LONDON TIMES. A referendum on Scotland's future in the U.K. will be held on Sept. 18 next year, "six weeks after the closing ceremony." Grevemberg has been pleased that all parties "have so far treated the Commonwealth Games as a protected property." Grevemberg is determined to ensure that neither the so-called "friendly games" nor the competing athletes become a political football in the debate. Grevemberg said, "We remind the general public that athletes are there to do one thing and to compete. They are not there to be used as political pawns. We are very strong in protecting that" (LONDON TIMES, 9/11).

Malaysia's "is among four bids shortlisted" by the Int'l Hockey Federation (FIH) for the 2018 Men's World Cup. India, Australia and New Zealand "are the other three countries to have made officials bids" for the field hockey event (THE STAR, 9/11). ...  The 53rd National Open Athletics Championships in Ranchi, India ended on Tuesday "in utter chaos with the closing ceremony, attended by state sports minister, being held in complete darkness for the entire period after a power blackout" (PTI, 9/10). ... The Indian cricket team "will open its tour of New Zealand with an ODI in Napier, while Auckland and Wellington have been awarded the two Test matches in the list of venues announced for next year's series" (PTI, 9/10).