Heineken Cup Nears Extinction As Welsh Teams Favor Anglo-French Competition Plans
Wales' four rugby regions "are backing Anglo-French plans for a new European competition in a further threat to the future of the Heineken Cup," according to the BBC. Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons claim the revamped tournament offers "significant advantages." The Welsh Rugby Union "opposes the new European competition." The Welsh, Scottish and Irish Rugby Unions are refusing to let their clubs participate in any European competition if it does not have the "full approval" of the Int'l Rugby Board (BBC, 10/23). In N.Y., Emma Stoney wrote "this season's Heineken Cup now looks as if it could be the last." The cash-strapped Welsh regions have been told they will each gain about £600,000 ($974,000) more per season "by joining the breakaway competition." While the English and French clubs have been adamant that they would go it alone, their preference is for the Rugby Champions Cup to be a 20-team European tournament -- "or four fewer teams than the current Heineken Cup." The remaining sides "would play in a second-tier competition, as they do currently in the Amlin Challenge Cup" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23). In London, Mick Cleary wrote "Premier Rugby welcomed Tuesday night's developments." A PRL spokesperson said, "This is good news and we are looking forward to working with our partners in the future" (TELEGRAPH, 10/22).