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Heineken Cup agreement set to continue without English clubs
A statement from the IRFU this evening confirmed that an ERC-run European competition will continue.

THE IRFU HAS joined the Welsh, Scottish, Italian and, crucially, French rugby unions in reconfirming that there will be an ERC-run European rugby competition in 2014/15 involving 20 teams, no matter how many countries are involved.

English clubs’ plans to breakaway from the Heineken Cup to form the new Rugby Champions Cup now look in tatters, due to the fact that the PRL [Premiership Rugby Ltd.] was counting on the French and Welsh clubs to support their new competition. Tough times may lie ahead for the English clubs if they choose to remain on the outside.

FFR [Fédération Française de Rugby] president Pierre Camou has been a key player in trying to influence a turnaround from the French clubs, whose umbrella group LNR have yet to formally pledge their allegiance to the ERC Accord.

Camou’s insistence that the Top 14 clubs had absolutely no right to breakaway from the ERC was backed up by a reported €2 million pay-off to each of the French clubs in exchange for their agreement to remain in the Heineken Cup.

Should a complete French u-turn come about, it will come as a huge relief to the IRFU and the four Irish provinces, who have strong financial and emotional dependence on the Heineken Cup. Irish rugby’s governing body has been calm and private throughout the recent months, preferring to do their negotiations outside of the media glare.

The statement from the IRFU this evening read:

A meeting was held in Dublin today (21 Nov) attended by FFR, FIR, IRFU, SRU and WRU to discuss the on-going issues surrounding European club competitions.

All five Unions believe that it is critical to the interests of the game in Europe that the Unions are at the heart of the governance of cross-border club competitions given that rugby in each country is organised in a pyramidical structure.

Clubs, provinces and regional organisations form an integral part of the development of the game throughout this structure, from grassroots to the international game.  Cross-border club competitions must not conflict with the development of the sport in Europe by Unions, this being in the best interest of players, spectators and the sport in general.

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The statement continues to reiterate that all five unions present at the meetings in Dublin today have reconfirmed their agreement on competition formats and financial distribution formula previously agreed by the six Unions who attended the mediated meeting in Dublin in October.

There was also insistence that the ERC [European Rugby Cup] will remain in charge of the centralised sale and management of all commercial rights, amongst other things. There was, however, an admission that discussions over governance will be pursued in order to optimise the internal functioning of the existing organization [currently named ERC].

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