European Rugby Cup (ERC) bosses on Friday called for an end to the public war of words to shape the future of rugby union’s European Cup.
On Tuesday, England’s Premiership clubs will reveal plans for an Anglo-French breakaway competition when the agreement governing the running of both the European Cup and the second-tier European Challenge Cup expires at the end of the current northern hemisphere season.
Clubs from both the Premiership and France’s Top 14 are unhappy with the existing setup which sees nearly all leading sides from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy guaranteed European Cup places on grounds of nationality, rather than on their positions in the domestic Celtic League.
However, the Premiership’s plan did extend an invitation to teams from beyond England and France to join their new event.
The Premiership and the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR), their French equivalent, are also unhappy at the way European Cup revenues are divided, with the Premiership and tournament organizers ERC involved in a row over the ownership of broadcast rights to matches.
On Wednesday, the ERC issued a statement insisting that all parties had “reaffirmed their commitment” to the negotiation process and agreed that “European club competitions must be organized by ERC.”
That latter claim has since been disputed by Toulouse president Rene Bouscatel and Leicester Tigers chairman Peter Wheeler, but the ERC remain adamant that such an agreement was reached in Dublin.
ERC independent chairman Jean-Pierre Lux and chief executive Derek McGrath said: “We believe it is now time for ERC’s shareholders to cease public ultimatums and to enter into genuine and decisive negotiations aimed at strengthening European club rugby. Together we confirm that it was agreed at last Wednesday’s Board meeting in Dublin, that ERC, as a signatory to the current accord, should be involved in all future negotiations aimed at the formulation of a new Accord for the 2014-2015 season and beyond.”
“To that end, the Board requested that ERC should convene the next, and future, meetings, and that it should consider the appointment of a mediator to move the negotiations forward towards a successful resolution. This process is now under way,” they said, adding: “The Board further agreed that bearing in mind the commitments the company has already entered into, no other structure other than ERC would be appropriate to organize European tournaments going forward.”