Talks on future of Heineken Cup still in deadlock

The Irish Rugby Football Union and the four provinces have admitted their concern and disappointment after the failure of the European Rugby Cup stakeholders to agree a new accord for the Heineken and Amlin Cups at yesterday’s meeting in London.

Ireland was represented by ERC board members Peter Boyle and Philip Browne.

With the English and French representatives sticking to their belief that more of their clubs should be involved in the Heineken Cup with a consequent reduction in those representing Ireland (with Connacht an inevitable casualty), Scotland and Italy, further stalemate was always a possibility.

This was the fourth meeting of the consultation process aimed at formulating a new accord which will provide for the structure and format of the tournaments for the 2014/15 season and beyond. The agenda included an evaluation, conducted by ERC, of the merits and the rationale for the proposed changes to the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup, as well as the impact on all stakeholders of any changes to the format and structure of both tournaments.

The meeting ended without agreement, an outcome that proved particularly frustrating for the Irish, Scottish, Italian and Welsh delegates.

“We are extremely disappointed that no progress was made to finalise a pathway towards a new accord,” said IRFU public relations officer Karl Richardson last night.

“We have little option now but to wait for the next meeting which hopefully will come up with a resolution. While no progress beyond where we were a couple of meetings ago has been made, we are satisfied that there is still time to reach a final accord.”

This view is shared by Jean-Pierre Lux, ERC independent chairman, who concluded the proceedings by calling on all parties to take time to reflect on their positions and to consider the collective objectives of the stakeholders.

“After four meetings, it is extremely disappointing for all involved that we have not yet made sufficient progress towards a new accord,” he said.

“These tournaments have become cherished by the clubs, players, supporters and our partners. Everyone around the table remains committed to making European club rugby stronger and we are confident a solution will be found. Together we have developed very successful and compelling European competitions built on solidarity, inclusivity and respect for sovereignty.

“Ultimately, ERC’s competitions depend on the support and agreement of the clubs and unions in all of the participating countries and now each nation must reflect on what is the best way forward for European rugby as a whole.”

While no date was set for another stakeholder meeting, the board of ERC is scheduled to meet on February 6, 2013 when it will review the consultation process to date. The current accord, which was agreed by all stakeholders in 2007, includes a two-year notice period which began on June 1, 2012 to allow for negotiations towards the formulation of a new accord. The structure and format of both the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup remain in place until the end of the 2013/14 season.

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