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English clubs' new strategy

PREMIERSHIP Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty is meeting with the English clubs today to propose a new approach to the discussions over the future of the Heineken Cup.

It is understood Premiership Rugby are unhappy with the current process after they failed to advance their agenda during meetings in Dublin and Rome.

An additional meeting held on Wednesday saw France, Premiership Rugby's only allies in the row over the format of a new competition, reject two proposals tabled by the Pro12 clubs.

The Premiership and Top 14 clubs are sticking by their own plans for a European shake-up, which is underpinned by a BT television deal worth up to £100million.

But Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy are staunchly opposed to the plans.

All the stakeholders are due back in Dublin on October 30 for another round of talks but Premiership Rugby remain unhappy that their demands are not being met.

The Rugby Football Union have been supportive of Premiership Rugby's position and they could have a key role to play in brokering a solution.

The RFU and Six Nations chairman, Bill Beaumont, has already offered his help in that regard. Chief executive Ian Ritchie and professional rugby director Rob Andrew were both at the meeting on Wednesday.

Premiership Rugby want action to kick-start the negotiations because they believe a solution needs to be found as a matter of urgency, potentially by the end of the year.

The English and French view is that Pro12 clubs have to qualify for the Heineken Cup on merit - rather than be guaranteed places - and for the money to be divided equally between the three leagues.

It has not escaped anyone's attention at Premiership Rugby that the Scottish and Italian teams have not earned a single point in two rounds of the Heineken Cup. Edinburgh have not even scored a point.



Expanded

The first counter proposal tabled by the PRO12 on Wednesday was for an expanded single European tournament of 32 teams.

It was rejected partly because it would leave the bottom two clubs in the Premiership and Top 14 without continental competition.

The second proposal was for the Heineken Cup to remain at 24 teams but for the Amlin Challenge Cup to be reduced to 16. That was also rejected.

The PRO12 proposals have been interpreted by some club officials as an attempt to drive a wedge between England and France.

But if that was the case, then McCafferty believes it has failed and potentially backfired.

"It's disappointing that European Rugby Cup Ltd chose to stage a meeting in this way," McCafferty said.

"However, everyone is now at least absolutely clear that the French and English clubs have a common vision for the format of European competition for 2014."


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