The Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), the governing body for domestic rugby in France, has clarified that unless there is a “catastrophic failure in negotiations” it will not consider abandoning the Heineken Cup for a breakaway tournament.
This assertion from LNR comes as representatives from all six countries - Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales and Italy – meet in Dublin today for an ERC shareholders meeting.
English and French clubs have voiced their dissatisfaction with the current structure of the Heineken Cup which they believe favours sides competing in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Accordingly both sets of clubs served notice of their intention to leave the competition at the end of the current contract which expires after the 2013-14 season unless the necessary changes are applied to the competition’s format.
Premiership Rugby increased the pressure on ERC last week with the announcement of a new TV rights deal with BT which included the exclusive rights to air European rugby matches involving Aviva Premiership teams.
This deal threatens the existence of the Heineken Cup however ERC have claimed that Premiership Rugby did not have the authority to sell the broadcast rights to European games.
Premiership Rugby had been using French Rugby’s discontent as a bargaining tool, suggesting that a breakaway Anglo-French competition could be formed.
But the LNR’s vice president Patrick Wolff has made clear that French clubs do not want to form a new breakaway tournament which wouldn’t include PRO12 clubs.
“The English put a lot of pressure on us in the past few months to accept the idea of an alternative Franco/Anglo club competition almost like it was a condition before discussing anything else," Wolff told AFP.
"That's not what we wanted to do. Save a catastrophic failure at the negotiations, which I don't think will happen, we want to play with the Celts and with the English.
"For us, there is a product (the European Cup). This product must be improved at the negotiations. We want everything to be resolved by the end of the year.
"Rugby has no interest in being swept up in uncertainty during two years. It is imperative that everyone structures things properly in their own country."