English chairman blames Heineken Cup fiasco on the French

Exeter Chiefs supremo Tony Rowe believes every European club wants to reach an agreement and feels the unions are at fault.

Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe.
Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowe.
Image: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

THE WAR OF words between just about every union blazer, power broker, rugby chairman and chief executive has had their say of the European rugby impasse.

The brickbats continued today as Exeter Chiefs chairman Tony Rowes weighed into the debate. Rowes is firmly entrenched with the viewpoint of the other English sides — the Pro12 sides get too much money and qualification is not fair.

He also feels that most clubs want a solution to be reached so a Heineken Cup, of sorts, can take place next season. The current deadline for a solution is the end of January but the posts have been shifted before.

“Things are skewed,” Rowe complained during an interview with BBC 5 Live Breakfast. Calling the Pro12 the ‘Robo direct’, the Chiefs supremo argued that there has been an unequal distribution of money and competition places. He criticised the French Rugby Union [FRU] for pressurising its clubs to steer clear of the proposed Heineken Cup alternative, the Rugby Champions Cup.

“The French pulled out of it,” said Rowe. “The clubs want this cup; it’s the unions that don’t want it… It’s a game of politics I’m afraid.”

Rowe made the point that the main European unions were in charge of the clubs that took part in the first stagings of the Heineken Cup. Now, he added, 30 of the 38 teams competing in Europe this season, including Exeter, are privately owned. “We’re all responsible for bringing in a profit or else we will go out of business,” he said.

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Rowe is still a believer in the Rugby Champions Cup idea — something the IRB has patently refused to back — and is hopeful that a deal will be done in the coming weeks that includes all European teams. “We want to bring more money into the game,” he proclaimed. “We’re talking about this competition doubling the amount of money for each club.”

He added, “[The other clubs] have to look to their unions because the deal is still on the table, the money is on the table… I’m very, very confident that there will be some form of European competition next season. The clubs at Premier Rugby want a full European competition, including the French, the Irish, Welsh, Scots and Italians.”

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Patrick McCarry

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