Rugby Unions, Anglo-French Clubs Agree On Qualification And Financing; Obstacles Remain
The six unions on the European Rugby Cup "have come halfway to meeting the demands of the English and French clubs over the future of European club rugby," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. The unions "agreed with proposals from the clubs that the two European club tournaments should both be 20 in number from next season -- the Heineken Cup has 24 teams competing -- and that the financial distribution should be split equally between the three leagues." The "two biggest obstacles to a deal," governance and operational issues including who would broadcast the event, "were deferred to another time, probably at the end of next week" (GUARDIAN, 10/24). REUTERS reported "the uncertainty caused by the threat of an Anglo-French breakaway tournament" means the four Welsh provinces were concerned "they would be unable to offer new deals to the players approaching the end of their contracts." The Welsh Rugby Union, which is "centrally involved in negotiations over the future of European club competition," said that it had "therefore stepped in to 'help and support' the Cardiff Blues, the Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons." A WRU statement said, "The WRU has offered to immediately assist to enable the regions to retain their leading Welsh qualified players in Wales" (REUTERS, 10/24).