World governing body could veto Euro breakaway

Frank Dalleres
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AN ANGLO-FRENCH breakaway competition to replace the Heineken Cup would not have the support of the International Rugby Board (IRB), chief executive Brett Gosper said yesterday.

England and France’s top clubs have threatened to form their own competition from next season unless other unions cede a greater share of revenues and agree to a new qualifying structure.

European Rugby Cup (ERC), which owns and runs the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup, insists talks are ongoing, and Gosper has warned that the IRB could veto a rebel tournament.

“We don’t believe in an Anglo-French competition in itself. We strongly believe it should be a European competition. That is our firm belief and what we would be supporting and throwing our weight behind,” he said.

“We know there are lots of discussions happening and there are different versions of how there have been fall-outs and disagreements. We urge all of those parties to get together and find some common ground because we believe it is in the interests of the game to do so.

“We have to ultimately approve any cross-border competition. Firstly, each union has to approve it. The FFR [French union] has to approve for their clubs to play, the RFU the same thing.”

ERC this week urged all parties to resume talks next month in Dublin and said it was compiling a shortlist of mediators to help mend the impasse, but Gosper ruled out the notion of the IRB stepping in.

“We are not intervening in the discussions that are happening,” he added. “We are having our own discussions, private conversations to understand and help where we can. For the moment we are hoping the parties in direct negotiation work out the situation themselves. We’re confident they will do that.”

Gosper said he did not expect the row to disrupt English preparations for hosting the 2015 World Cup.