'It's all about money these days': Quinlan hopes Heineken Cup is salvaged

The former Munster and Ireland flanker says every team in Europe would struggle without the H Cup.

Quinlan thinks the Heineken cup is too good to lose.
Quinlan thinks the Heineken cup is too good to lose.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

EVERY CLUB IN Europe would be negatively effected by the collapse of the Heineken Cup, whatever the English and French believe.

That’s according to Munster and Ireland legend Alan Quinlan, who understands why European rugby has come to this point but hopes a resolution can be reached.

Each day brings more confusion over the future of the Heineken Cup, but Quinlan feels that a tournament with as much stature and history must be saved.

“It is very difficult to know what both sides are thinking. Anyone who has had an involvement with the Heineken Cup over the years knows it is an amazing competition and it would be a shame if it went.

“A lot of mixed messages are coming out so far, but I’m very hopeful that there will be a resolution there. It [the Heineken Cup] has helped rugby hugely in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The English and French clubs have partly based their arguments around an unhappiness with how the PRO12 clubs qualify for Europe, and Quinlan admits there is “some merit” in that stance.

He says that qualification from the PRO12 should be based on league position, but maintains that all six countries should have one guaranteed entrant every year. If Italy or Scotland were to have no team in the European competition, it would be disastrous for the future of the game in those countries.

“It’s just a money scenario. Okay, the domestic leagues are important to the teams as well but with no Heineken Cup, sponsorship would be down and revenue would be down, so it has a huge impact on clubs.”

The sense has always been that this dispute is really driven by the English and French clubs’ financial desires, something which Quinlan agrees is at the heart of the situation.

“It’s all about money these days. The clubs in the Premiership are businesses and they are not making enough money to make ends meets. They have  a lot of outgoings, money spent on their squads, so it is a tough business. In any conflict there has to be a bit of give and take.”

imageQuinlan is part of the Sky Sports Living for Sport programme. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The prospect of a rugby season without the Heineken Cup is creating anxiety among many Irish rugby fans, but there has been little consideration for how the players here would react.

It seems almost certain that the Irish provinces will come out of this situation in a weaker financial position, and therefore at an even greater risk of losing their best players to France and England.

Quinlan admits that it’s a worry, but he stresses that clubs across Europe would lose out without a fully inclusive European tournament like the Heineken Cup.

“Teams across Europe will struggle. Players from the Southern Hemisphere, they want to play in Europe. Dougie Howlett signed for Munster a few years ago and he wanted to compete in and win a Heineken Cup. So if you don’t have that, what’s the incentive for a player from the Southern Hemisphere?”

It appears that the drama will continue for some time yet, with no sign of a definitive outcome on the horizon just yet. Quinlan says there is much posturing going on between the various parties at the moment, but hopes the marquee European club tournament will endure.

“There is a bit of cat and mouse going on at the moment but it is to everyone’s benefit that it is there, from a money and a rugby point of view.”

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Murray Kinsella

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