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Thursday 2 October 2014

Heineken Cup looks doomed as English and French clubs to press ahead with replacement

Andy Hampson

Published 10/09/2013 | 17:37

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The Heineken Cup

The elite clubs of England and France have announced their intention to quit the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup and form their own European competitions.

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Discussions between Premiership clubs and their French counterparts with European Rugby Cup - organiser of the contintental competitions - over a number of issues have been deadlocked for some time.

Now a statement released by Premiership Rugby has said: "The clubs can only conclude that negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended."

The 2013-14 ERC competitions were due to the be last in their current guise after the English and French club served notice to quit in June last year.

They have been calling for a restructure of the competitions, principally over the way money is distributed and for changes to the qualifying structure.

Despite discussions dating back some time, ERC and the clubs of the Pro12 have so far given little indication of conceding ground.

Now Premiership Rugby has tried to force the issue by announcing plans for alternative competitions featuring English and French sides.

Under the proposals there will be scope for sides from other countries to be included.

The statement read: "The 2013-14 Aviva Premiership Rugby season kicked off this weekend with our clubs having no clear view of new European competitions from next season onwards.

"The current European Rugby Cup (ERC) competitions terminate at the end of this season after notice was served by the English and French clubs in June 2012.

"Despite numerous meetings between the stakeholders over the last year, the last of which was in May, discussions have been unsuccessful and the clubs can only conclude that negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended.

"The English and French clubs have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each, based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new markets. These proposals could form the basis of future competitions.

"However, given the importance and urgency of the current position, and the reconfirmation that the French clubs will not participate in any competition unless it includes the English clubs, the clubs have now asked Premiership Rugby to take immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014-15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries."

Other European teams, including the four Irish provinces, are likely to be given six weeks to declare their interest in joining new tournament before the schedule is drafted.

The European Rugby Cup directors will assemble for a scheduled board meeting in Dublin tomorrow.

In a statement, ERC said: "All parties involved in the ongoing consultation process aimed at formulating a new accord which will provide for the structure and format of European club rugby tournaments for the 2014/15 season and beyond will be represented at a scheduled meeting of the ERC board in Dublin tomorrow.

"While there is a shared sense of frustration among ERC's stakeholders at the lack of progress towards a new accord, the meeting will provide an opportunity for the parties to review the consultation process to date.

"The current accord, which was agreed by all stakeholders in 2007, includes a two-year notice period which began on June 1 2012 to allow for negotiations towards the formulation of a new agreement.

"The structure and format of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup remain in place until the end of the 2013/14 season."

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