European Rugby Cup CEO McGrath Says English Clubs Trying To Wreck TV Deal
The men in charge of European rugby union's leading club competitions "have accused English clubs of plotting the demise of both tournaments in a row over broadcasting rights," according to the LONDON TIMES. European Rugby Cup CEO Derek McGrath insists that "the door remains open to clubs in the Premiership." Talks have been scheduled for Oct. 23-24 "to broker a solution to the crisis that threatens to tear the continental game apart." Premiership Rugby has signed a TV deal with BT Vision worth £152M ($246M), with £52M ($84M) of that "earmarked for European competitions." However, ERC insists that "it will stand by current broadcast partner Sky, with a contract agreed" until '18. McGrath said, "That [BT] deal is an important factor in what is happening. It is very clear to us that the one reason the clubs don't want ERC to continue is to frustrate the Sky contract. It's not about performance or the competitions, it's about winding down the company with the expectation that the Sky deal would fall away with it" (LONDON TIMES, 9/30).
BREAKING AWAY: The London TELEGRAPH reported Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby are forging ahead with plans to launch their own breakaway competition -- the Rugby Champions Cup -- in '14, "and have extended an invitation to Celtic and Italian teams to join them." Celtic unions Wales, Scotland and Ireland announced that "they would not sanction their teams to play in any tournaments" not approved by the Int'l Rugby Board. McGrath is adamant that "he believes a solution can be found, despite the odds being overwhelmingly stacked against a resolution" (TELEGRAPH, 9/30). The BBC reported the "door is still open" for Europe's top clubs to help find a solution to the row over the Heineken Cup's future. English and French clubs "will quit the tournament next year" in favor of the proposed Rugby Champions Cup. ERC, which has run the Heineken Cup since it began in '95, "wants to reopen talks with clubs." McGrath: "The future is best served by doing what we have all been doing for 18 years" (BBC, 9/30).
JONES' CARDIFF FUTURE UNCERTAIN: The BBC also reported rugby player Sam Warburton's agent, Derwyn Jones, said that the player's future at Cardiff Blues "has been left in limbo by the row engulfing European rugby." The British and Irish Lions and Wales captain, 24, "is out of contract with the Blues at the end of the season." Jones said, "Sam Warburton has told Cardiff Blues that he wants to stay in Wales next season. But the region aren't able to offer him a contract at the moment because of the mess that exists in Europe. They don't know how much money they will have next year" (BBC, 9/30).