EUROPEAN rugby was plunged into turmoil last night when English and French clubs announced their intention to replace the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup with two new competitions.
Premiership Rugby, which represents England’s top teams, said it considered talks aimed at resolving an impasse with European Rugby Cup (ERC), which runs the current competitions, to be over. The statement came as ERC’s board prepares to meet in Dublin today.
English and French clubs, who last year declared their plan to quit the current format when their deal expires next summer, propose forming two new tournaments, consisting of 20 teams each and also open to sides from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy.
Premiership Rugby said its clubs were forced to act as the new season started at the weekend “with our clubs having no clear view of new European competitions from next season onwards”.
It added: “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.”
English and French clubs wanted a restructure of the existing competitions, with changes to qualification and the distribution of money to reflect their status as the biggest teams. Pro-12 sides from Ireland, Wales and Scotland have refused to cave in but the ERC said last night that talks would continue today.
“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,” it said.
“The current accord, which was agreed by all stakeholders in 2007, includes a two-year notice period which began on 1 June 2012 to allow for negotiations towards the formulation of a new agreement.”