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Volume 10 No. 25

Leagues and Governing Bodies

European rugby experienced a "'historic' new dawn" after the "striking of a long-awaited deal to establish three new elite club competitions to replace the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cups next season," according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. After almost two years of "at times torturous negotiations, the nine stakeholders of the European game assembled" to iron out the "remaining minor areas of contention to sign a heads of agreement for a new eight-year deal that includes a two-year notice period." The deal establishes three new "cross-border tournaments, the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Qualifying Competition." The agreement confirmed that the tournaments would be "run by a new association, which replaces the Dublin-based European Rugby Cup Limited, called the European Professional Club Rugby, based in Switzerland" (TELEGRAPH, 4/10). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported the European club rugby competition "will not have a title sponsor but instead seek a group of backers, emulating a model that has proved lucrative for Champions League" football. Premiership Rugby Commercial Dir Dominic Hayes said that the plan was to "look for backing from up to six companies" to maximize income from the competition. Hayes: "We already know that there is enormous potential to drive the commercial value of the competitions." Heineken reportedly pays around $13.9M per season for its naming rights. Bringing in a "group of sponsors would not only provide additional revenue, but also allow the competition to be marketed to a wider audience across a range of businesses." The organizers, however, face a "race against time to get sponsors signed up in time for the start of next season" (REUTERS, 4/11).

U.K. TV RIGHTS: In London, Paul Rees reported BT Sport and Sky have agreed to a "deal for the British rights, which will be confirmed when Sky is formally released from its existing contract" with the Heineken Cup organizers, European Rugby Cup Ltd., and an agreement for the TV rights in France is "close to being signed." That is expected to "raise the value of the tournament's international rights" (GUARDIAN, 4/12).

CLUBS DEMAND COMPENSATION: Also in London, Hugh Godwin reported England's Premiership clubs are demanding £14M ($23.4M) from the Rugby Football Union as "compensation for the disruption caused by next year's World Cup in England and Wales." The clubs, "having paid tribute" to RFU CEO Ian Ritchie for "smoothing the new European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) accord," are set to test the resolve of the Int'l Rugby Board, with plans to "create a World Club Cup" in June '18. The month-long tournament, "which has been discussed" with broadcasters Sky in the U.K. and Supersport in South Africa, would see the eight quarterfinalists from the European Champions Cup "meeting eight crack southern-hemisphere teams from what by then will be the Super 16" (INDEPENDENT, 4/13).

'HARDLY A SURPRISE': Also in London, Steve James opined the details "were hardly a surprise, and in both rugby and financial terms it is hard to quibble with the changes." Qualification and distribution of revenues will "now be significantly fairer." Both competitions -- the second-tier competition will be called the European Rugby Challenge Cup -- "will now be stronger and more lucrative." What "is there not to like?" (TELEGRAPH, 4/12).

A new F1 entry proposed by NASCAR team co-Owner Gene Haas was accepted by motorsports governing body FIA on Friday and "another application made by former F1 team principal Colin Kolles is also under consideration," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. No "further details were given" but an FIA spokesperson confirmed that "former Jordan, Midland, Spyker, Force India and HRT principal Kolles was behind Forza Rossa with Romanian partners." FIA did not say when the "proposed new teams were planning on entering." Last December, FIA "called for expressions of interest from potential new entries wanting to compete" from '15 or '16, and set a January deadline. There are "currently 11 teams on the starting grid" (REUTERS, 4/11). Haas said, "It's an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One" (Stewart-Haas Racing).

Russian President Vladimir Putin "called Friday for his government to draw up rules to control how Russian teams sign foreign football and hockey players, in a sign that limits in both sports could be tightened," according to R-SPORT. Russian top-tier football clubs "may field no more than seven foreigners at a time, while Russian clubs in the KHL hockey league can have only five foreigners on the roster." Those limits "are designed to protect local talent and ensure game time for young Russian players with the aim of national teams succeeding at top global competitions." The quotas "have been criticized, however, for allowing Russian players to demand inflated wages." Now control of foreign player limits "could be taken out of the sports federations’ hands" (R-SPORT, 4/11).

The Canterbury Cricket Association "welcomes a move to third-party investment, suggesting it will benefit all aspects of the domestic game, including the grass-roots level." The CCA does not, however, have a "deep-pocketed money man waiting in the wings to buy into the association" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 4/12). ... After days of "speculation and drama," former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif has "turned down an offer to meet" Pakistan Cricket Board Chair Najam Sethi, who "wanted to convince the ex-wicketkeeper to take over as the new chief selector" (PTI, 4/12). ... The Australian government has named "veteran administrator Peter Fricker as a new member of the expert panel" responsible for judging Stephen Dank after coming "under fire over the most significant drugs investigation in Australian sport's history." The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's independent review body, the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel, "has before it the pressing matter of determining whether Dank's practices" at Australian Football League and National Rugby League clubs breached rules. The panel "needs at least four members to be valid" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 4/12).