English Premiership Rugby Clubs Confirm Exit From ERC's Heineken Cup
England's top-flight rugby clubs "have reiterated that they will not take part in the Heineken Cup next season, even though the decision leaves them seemingly isolated in Europe," according to the BBC. English and French clubs "gave notice 17 months ago that they would leave and form a breakaway competition." But last week, French teams "committed to the current tournament -- as long as their English counterparts also did." Premiership Rugby said it was looking at a "number of other options." The governing body's Chair Quentin Smith told BBC Radio 5 live those options included "expanding domestic competitions and looking at things we can do in our own jurisdiction, and playing countries and other clubs in the northern and southern hemisphere" (BBC, 12/5). REUTERS' Mitch Phillips reported English club owners and Premiership officials "have been at loggerheads" with European Rugby Cup, which runs the Heineken Cup and second-tier Amlin Cup, as well as the Irish, Scottish and Italian leagues, as they "seek to reform aspects of qualification and payment." The ERC "has proposed a reformatted tournament for next season, featuring 20 clubs instead of the current 24, as well as changes in the distribution of income." The unions of France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy -- but notably not England -- "recently issued a joint statement saying they backed ERC and the plans for a revised competition under its control." However, that "was not enough to convince the English clubs to go back on their stated desire to leave and set up an alternative competition." A Premiership statement said, "ERC does not structurally recognise the role of the leagues and clubs in driving the success of club competitions, under the overall governance of Unions" (REUTERS, 12/5).