English and French clubs announce new rugby competition

AFP, PARIS

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 - Page 18

English and French clubs announced a rival to the European Cup yesterday, called the Rugby Champions Cup.

Clubs from the English Premiership and French Top 14 competitions had been threatening for months to create a breakaway competition if European Cup organizers, the European Rugby Cup, failed to find a solution to their concerns over the current competition’s format.

In a statement released yesterday, the clubs said they had asked their respective leagues to take the necessary measures to create the new competition for next season.

The new competition will be open to Celtic League teams as well.

“The announcements by Premiership Rugby and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby [LNR] on 10th September confirmed that the Top 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs had instructed their leagues to put in place a new competition in time for the 2014/15 season,” the joint statement from English and French clubs said.

“It is now confirmed that the competition will be named the Rugby Champions Cup. The competition will be based on the principles of qualification on merit, a strong competition format, equality between the leagues, higher commercial values for the teams and expansion into new European markets,” the statement said.

“The Top 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs have already confirmed their participation in the new competition and a joint working group has been created to prepare all necessary elements in good time for the 2014/15 season,” it added.

English and French clubs have long grumbled that Celtic League teams have an unfair advantage in European competition as most of them are guaranteed entry, whereas Premiership and Top 14 teams have to fight hard just to qualify.

As well as seeing a fairer distribution of places between the three major European Leagues, English and French clubs also wanted a reduction in the number of teams participating in the European Cup, from 24 to 20.

All these measures were rejected by Celtic League teams and the ERC, leading to an impasse that resulted in the English and French taking the drastic breakaway measure.

English clubs were the first to announce they would be pulling out of the European Cup next season, with French teams saying later they would only play in a competition that included the English.