THE European Rugby Cup confirmed yesterday it has received a formal complaint from losing finalist Biarritz about TV coverage of the Heineken Cup in Cardiff.
The French club has written to the tournament organisers to criticise the decision to show live pictures of Munster supporters in Limerick on two large video screens inside the Millennium Stadium at a pivotal point during the game.
Sky TV, which controlled the TV images displayed in the ground, broadcast scenes of thousands of cheering Munster supporters from O’Connell Street in Limerick when their team was leading 20-16 and again a few minutes before the final whistle when the Irish province was ahead 23-19.
Biarritz believe the pictures gave Munster an unfair advantage, although they accept there is no prospect of having the result reversed.
Marcel Martin, president of Biarritz Olympique, claimed the decision to broadcast scenes of large crowds in Limerick which were beamed on two giant video screens inside the Millennium Stadium was "totally unfair".
Mr Martin highlighted how similar pictures of crowds in Biarritz were not shown, despite the fact that the French club had also put on facilities for their fans.
In an interview in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune, Mr Martin, one of the best known administrators in French rugby, said he believed that Sky TV should have remained unbiased.
Biarritz have also expressed concern to the ERC about the organisation surrounding Cardiff as a venue. Mr Martin has complained that Irish fans were able to book flights and accommodation ahead of Biarritz fans (because the pairing of Leinster and Munster in the semi-final ensured an Irish team in the final) which forced many supporters of the Basque club to fly to Bristol and stay in hotels a good distance from Cardiff.
However, Mr Martin also praised Munster for winning the Heineken Cup. "No question about it," he observed. He congratulated Irish rugby fans as being the best in the world for their enthusiasm as well as their respect for opposing teams.
An ERC spokesperson said footage of crowds in the hometown of finalists had been shown for a number of years without controversy.