English out in cold after five unions back Heineken Cup
THE Heineken Cup will take place next season, but it remains to be seen which countries will take part.
Five of the six unions involved reached agreement on the future of European rugby at a meeting in Dublin yesterday, but it is increasingly likely that the English clubs will remain outside the competition in 2014-15.
The Welsh regions and French clubs have yet to sign up for the ERC-run competition despite their unions' pledge and there remains the possibility that some could try and go with the English-led Rugby Champions Cup, which they committed to last month.
There remains faint hope that the Premiership clubs could sign up for a 20-team Heineken Cup and an Amlin Challenge Cup of the same size next year, with revenue split three ways between the leagues, but the more likely scenario appears to be one competition with the 14 Pro12 sides and six French clubs.
Premiership Rugby reiterated its stance in a statement that read: "We shall continue to implement the plans under way for the Rugby Champions Cup with the declared participants in time for the 2014-15 season, as required by our clubs and communicated in the joint-statement of 10 September 2013 and subsequent media statements."
The French Federation are believed to be offering €2m to each club to participate in the Heineken Cup, while threatening that no new accord over player release and TV rights would be agreed with clubs if they went their own way.
The Scottish, Irish, Welsh, French and Italian unions all released simultaneous statements last night after the meeting reasserting their commitment to the ERC and to holding a 20-team tournament next season "no matter how many countries are involved".