Rugby Players' Association Backs Heineken Cup Breakaway As Conflict Continues
The Rugby Football Union "is coming under increasing pressure to ratify plans for a new European competition after the organisation representing England’s players became the latest high-profile body to back the dismantling of the Heineken Cup," according to James & Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. The RFU issued a statement on Friday saying that "it would need to see more detail about any new proposed competition before giving authorisation." But the Rugby Players’ Association "has now thrown its weight behind the plans, which are being drawn up by Premier Rugby, the body representing clubs in the Aviva Premiership, and Ligue Nationale de Rugby, the equivalent organisation in France." RPA CEO Damian Hopley said, "The status quo is unacceptable. We want to ensure that players from all 12 clubs are playing in the optimum competitions, which is not the case at the moment" (TELEGRAPH, 9/14). In London, Robert Kitson reported Premiership owners "are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss what a new tournament will look like," and continue to believe "there is no way back for the existing competition run by the Dublin-based European Rugby Club" (GUARDIAN, 9/15).
BREAKAWAY PLANNED: In London, Paul Rees reported Premiership Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby said that "an Anglo-French tournament was being planned." Invitations "were issued for teams from the other four countries involved in the Heineken Cup to join in, but they were turned down by the unions involved at a board meeting of the tournament organisers." Former RFU Chair Martyn Thomas said, "The English clubs have a contractual obligation to play in the Heineken Cup next season and the RFU can enforce it" (GUARDIAN, 9/13). The BBC reported "the current two European competitions, the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, involve teams from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Portugal and Romania." However, the English and French "argue their qualification criteria are much tougher and put them at a disadvantage in the competitions." They "served notice to quit the tournament in 2012," however, Thomas does not believe their proposed alternative can get off the ground. He said, "It's grandstanding" (BBC, 9/13).