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English and French clubs to form breakaway 'merit-based' tournament

Premiership Rugby say negotiations with the ERC are over and will open qualification to the proposed tournament to other nations.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

PREMIERSHIP RUGBY HAVE today called the ongoing negotiations with the ERC, who run the Heineken and Amlin Challenge Cup, over.

The future of the Heineken Cup is now in jeopardy as they will move ahead with plans to form a breakaway tournament with clubs in France.

Top 14 and Premiership representatives – from France and England respectively – have long been unhappy with the manner in which Pro12/Celtic League sides have not been subject to a qualification process for European tournaments

Today, Premiership Rugby released the below, strongly worded, statement saying they now presumed negotiations over and would press ahead with plans for two 20-team tournaments which will also be open to sides from outside France and England.

The current European Rugby Cup (ERC) competitions terminate at the end of this season after notice was served by the English and French clubs in June 2012.
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.

The English and French clubs have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each, based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new markets. These proposals could form the basis of future competitions.

However, given the importance and urgency of the current position, and the reconfirmation that the French clubs will not participate in any competition unless it includes the English clubs, the clubs have now asked Premiership Rugby to take immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014/15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries.

With the 2014 end of the accord between league stakeholders in sight last year, Premiership clubs floated the idea of a new European tournament which would be hosted by BT Vision rather than Sky. The new broadcaster is growing in strength with comprehensive rights to top-flight rugby in England, the proposal carries a lot more weight than it did 12 months ago.

UPDATE: 18.20: The ERC have issued a response only to say that a scheduled meeting between stakeholders will take place in Dublin tomorrow.

“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.”

Tuqiri on his way to Dublin after being released by NRL club

In case you missed them, here’s how all four provinces got on at the weekend

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Sean Farrell

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