RFU CEO Ian Ritchie Still Working On Deal To Rescue Heineken Cup
A deal to save a European Cup that would meet the demands of all those involved "is still possible and everyone should 'bust a gut' to achieve it," according to Mark Souster of the LONDON TIMES. That is the opinion of Rugby Football Union CEO Ian Ritchie, who said Tuesday that "a satisfactory formula was within reach for a true pan-European tournament despite the apparent collapse of negotiations last month." He remains determined to "act as an honest broker and do everything within his power to bring about a solution to a crisis that has dogged European rugby for the past 18 months." Ritchie: "We urge everybody [to meet] in a room as a matter of urgency with focused discussions. We are going to flog our guts out. I think there is a deal to be done, but it requires compromise. It is worthwhile going that extra mile." Talks "are continuing daily." Ritchie "laid out in detail how much progress had been made." He listed the matters that "had been agreed to by all parties including the English and French clubs." It was obvious that there "was far more common ground than anyone had envisaged, which ties in with Ritchie’s desire to negotiate in private and not through 'soundbite' press releases" (LONDON TIMES, 12/11). In London, Paul Rees reported the plan "hinged on the Six Nations committee taking over as the tournament organisers from European Rugby Cup Ltd., a body Premiership Rugby says it will have nothing to do with after this season, not least because the two organisations have television deals with the rivals BT and Sky." Ritchie said that "the agreement gave the four RaboDirect Pro 12 unions a guaranteed income for five years" of more than €100M ($138M), with any drop in the projected income in that period borne by the French and English clubs who, in return, would run the commercial arm of the tournament. Ritchie said, "Unfortunately, the French have always been reticent about the Six Nations committee because of their association with FIRA [the organization representing the smaller European unions] and they wanted a new company to be formed to run the tournament" (GUARDIAN, 12/10).