New British and Irish Cup touted as possible Heineken alternative
A new British and Irish Cup is the latest initiative to emerge as a possible solution to the European crisis that has plagued rugby for the past six months.
The English Premiership clubs would join with their counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Ireland to cover the gaps left by the Heineken Cup, which shows little sign of taking place next season. The British and Irish Cup would feature 22 teams: 12 from England, four apiece from Wales and Ireland, two from Scotland.
There are other ventures doing the rounds, from the English-backed notion of a Champions Cup, which would also involve the French sides, to an expanded Aviva Premiership with the 12 English clubs joining forces with the four Welsh regions.
Those Welsh sides remain disaffected with their union and have been searching the market place for a viable option to meet their financial as well as commercial needs. It is believed that BT Sport would be interested in broadcasting a British and Irish Cup, which would be worth some £2m per team per season.
There is real concern among the four Welsh regions that they will be driven out of business if they do not come up with a format that will fill the holes in the schedule.
Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas said of the possible new venture: "It is something for our club, our followers and sponsors, something of real value."
Thomas is desperately trying to hang on to star names such as Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton, both of whom have received lucrative offers from France. The Welsh regions have refused to sign a new participation agreement with their union. The WRU announced on Thursday that it wanted to re-open some form of negotiations with its regions but that relationship appears as fractious as ever. (© Daily Telegraph, London)