Tuesday 12 December 2017

McGrath admits pressure mounting on ERC to seal a deal

David Kelly

David Kelly

THERE seems little likelihood of any positive outcome emerging as the ongoing wrangle involving the Heineken Cup shuffles into Rome next Monday.

With some of the national Unions set to detail proposals that will tinker with the qualification procedures and the timing of future Heineken Cup competitions, ERC chief executive Derek McGrath yesterday admitted there is pressure to seal a deal.

"If there were to be any changes, we would want to agree to them before the beginning of 2014-15 -- season and probably the 2013-14 season -- so that places certain pressures on us. And there's pressure from our partners and the supporters."

The Irish Independent understands that several of the competition's major sponsors are monitoring the ongoing row, currently centred on the controversial BT Vision deal that has been signed by Premiership Rugby.

And it is also believed that a potential deal with ITV sport to broadcast highlights may have been scuppered as they are believed to also be in discussions with BT Vision regarding their putative future coverage of European rugby.

"There's absolute unanimity from the institutions of the game that the IRB regulations are very clear in how commercial deals, specifically regarding broadcasting deals, can go ahead," continued McGrath.

"Within every territory, the Union must give authority to allow any match to be televised. Within the ERC, all of the Unions have centralised that with us. That's how we've continued.

"For any cross-border competition, lots of Unions have to give approvals before any commercial dealings can be achieved.

"So, having a commercial dealing that's been presented as a fait accompli makes it very difficult for people to understand how it can be regulated.

"We can't even discuss the BT deal, even if we wanted to, because it's done outside the institutions of the game.

"We reject any deal that's done outside the constructs of the ERC Accord. Every country is bound into the decision we made in relation to Sky.

"We've no difficulty with any proposals that are on the table. But what we need is a clear agenda that we can focus on. There's never been any fear around our table.

"But we need an agreement which involves compromise. And it needs to be balanced, because everyone is looking for something that is in their interests. That's business and we understand it."

Jean-Pierre Lux, ERC chairman, admitted that a swift resolution was unlikely at next week's meeting, which comes a month after a fractious initial discussion among the competition stakeholders in Dublin.

But McGrath insisted that there is agreement that the competition should survive, notwithstanding certain changes that were initially proposed by a French delegation last summer.

Irish Independent

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