The future of the European Cup was plunged into fresh doubt on Wednesday after officials refused to release payments owed to competing clubs. Following a board meeting of the European Rugby Cup (ERC) at its Dublin headquarters, tournament heads said they would reconvene on Feb. 19.
The competition is facing the threat of extinction, with moves afoot to have the continent’s top club rugby union events run by another organization next season.
England’s Premiership clubs, threatening to launch a breakaway Rugby Champions Cup because of unhappiness with the qualifying and payment structure, want the Six Nations committee to oversee the continent’s leading club tournament next season.
It is a position French and Welsh clubs have said they would accept.
In the midst of the uncertainty, the board, whose distribution of money to teams comes via their national unions — another sore point as far as the Premiership is concerned — is understood to be withholding funds as they seek clarification over their potential liabilities were they to be wound up at the end of the season.
Wednesday’s statement said there had been “unanimous” agreement.
Regional Rugby Wales, the umbrella group for the four Welsh professional clubs, were not represented on Wednesday, having yet to nominate a replacement for Stuart Gallacher, who stepped down from the European Rugby Cup board in December, and both Scottish Rugby representatives did not attend on Wednesday.
“The vote to postpone any decision followed preliminary advice received by the board, and was taken in the best interests of the company after lengthy discussions,” the board’s statement said.
“The board agreed unanimously that further detailed legal and other professional advice was necessary in order to facilitate the ongoing discussions in relation to the future of European club rugby tournaments and the distribution of funds deriving from the 2013-2014 season,” it added.
“At the ERC Board meeting of 11 Sept. 2013, it was decided that distribution payments should be approved by the board before any funds are released. The first payment of 15 million euro [US$20 million] was made in October 2013 following board approval,” it added.
The board comprises representatives from the six country unions, Premiership Rugby, Regional Rugby Wales and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby.
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