England & French clubs pull out of Heineken Cup
English & French leagues announce plans to set up a new European cup competition in 2014-2015
Leading English and French clubs announced on Tuesday night that they are to break away from the Heineken Cup and set up their own European tournament, reports the Daily Telegraph.
In June of last year the two sets of clubs gave their two-year notice that they would pull out of the two tiers of European cup competition - the Heineken and Amlin Cups.
The move comes due to dissatisfaction with the way the competitions are structured, how qualification is decided and how proceeds are shared.
Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts - the LNR - will set up an Anglo-French competition beginning in the 2014-15 season with the potential for other teams to join the new competition.
The announcement coincides with Wednesday's meeting of European Rugby Cup board members in Dublin at which it is likely that Celtic and Italian representatives will strongly object to the move.
Anglo-French grievances surround rejection by Celtic and Italian sides of their demands to reduce the size of the competition to 20 teams - from 24 - and their request for an equal three way split in revenue between the Premiership, the French Top 14 and the RaboDirect Pro 12.
“We have had a year of discussions and no breakthrough,” Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby, told Telegraph Sport.
“We were hoping to have at least one more meeting over the summer towards the end of August and that didn’t happen for whatever reason. So in discussion with the French clubs at the end of last week we just felt we had to get on now and try to advance things.
“The French clubs have very clearly stated they will not participate in any competition without the English clubs and in the absence of an agreement we have to start planning for next season.
"The clubs have asked us now to really work on the Anglo-French competition and to leave the option for other teams to join. But we really have to start putting in place something that can run from 2014-15 onwards.
"The French are already at round five and we have just started and everyone wants clarity. We are going to try to give some clarity to that.”
Despite the agreement between the two organisations, plans are very much in the early stages, however McCafferty said discussions would begin "almost immediately" concerning the format of the new competition.
Premiership Rugby are hoping that Celtic and Italian clubs will join the competition however it is clear that they will have to commit very soon.
“We can’t finalise that until we know what other teams are going to come into it," added McCafferty.
"We are going to sit down now and work out what works best from an Anglo-French point of view but also if you are to expand if other teams come in, what would the format be.
“To plan the competition properly a month to six weeks would be the timing we would want try to get clear on.
"If others don’t want to be part of it, it is pretty easy to work out a format. If other people come in, then that’s when it starts to vary.
"We would like for other teams to come into it, but nobody, not just ourselves, can spend another year trying to work through an agreement when we haven’t been able to find one in the last year.”
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