Extra place will tempt the Celts to sign up for Champions Cup

The Celtic Unions are being guaranteed one more place in the proposed Rugby Champions’ Cup than the English and French clubs.

The offer to increase qualification from the top six of the Pro 12 to the top seven has been made by the Anglo-French architects of the new tournament as an added incentive to join.

The new plan makes room for the seventh-placed RaboDirect team as the 19th qualifier alongside six from the Aviva Premiership and six from the Top 14. The final, 20th place will be a one-match play-off between the seventh placed teams in England and France.

“There’s no question that this makes the Champions’ Cup an even more attractive proposition,” a Pro 12 chief executive told The Rugby Paper. “The offer’s on the table but nothing’s been agreed as yet.”

To preserve the pan-European nature of the competition, the highest ranked Italian and Scottish team in the Pro 12 will be granted entry to the Champions’ Cup even if they finish outside the top seven.  In that event one or both of the teams finishing above them would be disqualified.

Mark DodsonThe significant change to the play-off structure has been made in response to the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian Unions refusing to give their teams the green light for any competition not approved by the game’s governing body, the IRB.

The four Welsh regions have already declared their unconditional support for the Champions’ Cup, even if that means defying their own Union.  Celtic champions Leinster signalled their readiness last month to consider joining the new venture and SRU chief executive Mark Dodson, left, has warned that no Europe ‘could well be the end of professional rugby in Scotland’.

The English and French are adamant that unless the Unions give them commercial control, there will be no Europe next season.

The Unions met last week to discuss the joint-PRL (Premier Rugby Ltd) and LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) proposal over what remains the major stumbling block – passing control to the clubs.

With little room left for manoeuvre, the Unions have referred the crisis to the IRB and its 66-year-old chairman, former French Federation president Bernard Lapasset.

He has appealed to all parties for ‘cool heads’ and ‘time to reflect’.

The English and French will be tempted to give that short shrift, given that they waited almost 18 months for the Heineken Cup organisers, ERC Ltd., to agree to their demands for a standard qualifying method and equal distribution of revenue.

Lapasset said: “There have been somewhat hasty positions taken on the part of the British. I believe there is a need for them to work on the plans and so I am giving them the time to come up with something more constructive which will unite everyone and not be divisive. Rugby must be governed fairly and with respect for others.”

The English and French claim the Heineken Cup, as run by ERC Ltd., was anything but fair – hence their call for an equality which ERC has belatedly taken on board.

Under the current arrangement, the Pro 12 clubs take the lion’s share at 52 per cent, leaving the English and French with 24 per cent each. That means each English club is paid £800,000 for competing in Europe while the two Scottish teams receive more than £2m.

PETER JACKSON

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11 thoughts on “Extra place will tempt the Celts to sign up for Champions Cup

  1. World Warrior

    We all need to stop being so provincial and act in the best interests of the game we all love or it will fall apart. I can see it from the French and English point of view as they did raise their issues several times with the ERC before serving notice on Heineken cup and starting to look at alternatives. The ERC ignored what I believe to be quite legitimate concerns especially from the English clubs POV as they have no guaranteed spots in Europe or finances to support playing in a competitive league and being successful at European level.
    I do think the way the English clubs have now started to bully the smaller Celtic teams isn’t good for the game but from the way the ERC behaved previously I think I would probably we telling them to go to hell as well.
    The bottom line is that the clubs are the ones who train and pay the players (regardless of where they get their funding), they are the ones we all rely on to produce the future talent we want to see so if they wish to find a better structure to make the game more competitive and exciting then surely it is the job of the unions to find a body who can organise a competition they all agree to which isn’t the ERC or the Anglo-French alliance.
    Personally I think rugbys relationship with Sky hasn’t been a good one and BT Sport and smaller providers would be in the best interests of the fans making it cheaper to watch games and giving all the club’s a good slice of the pie to boot.
    Lets find an alternative quickly so we can still watch European rugby next year and make sure what’s happening on the pitch is what is making headlines for us. Good luck to all parties concerned and to everyone in the Six Nations as well!

  2. richard wall

    what about all the other rugby unions in europe having a bite ,just like football ,they have prelemary rounds to get to the champions league.

  3. Mal

    Please read the whole post before you rip into me.
    What are the PRO 12 clubs and unions scared of. They were asked to put into place meritocrat qualification and fair share finances but sat on their backsides and did nothing, confident that they had control. Once the threat of breakaway was realistic they came up with agreement on all points….. Except… Control.

    If the French and English don’t want to play in the HC in its existing or proposed format then why should they? What has everybody got against competition from another cup….surely it’s healthy and only provides the clubs with choice.

    The reality is guys, the French and English want to wrestle control away from the unions, not from the Celtic nations.

    As the clubs in France and England are privately financed, why shouldn’t they owners want to maximise their investment. The more popular they can make the sport the better for all.

    The French and English, despite what they say need the Pro12 as much as the other way round, however why should a club that is not up to standard be allowed to participate in a cup that they use purely as a cash cow. Implement good solid competition into the regions in Scotland for example by creating more clubs and eventually this increase in player base should increase competition for higher level places which will then be reflected by improvements on the pitch.

    . I for one want to see a very healthy rugby cup involving all rugby playing nations and hope we get to see that next year, in whatever form of cup develops
    .

  4. Llew

    Having read numerous articles in the Rugby Paper on this topic written by Peter Jackson, there can be only one conclusion. That the facts are not being presented, which represent both viewpoints. Furthermore, there are numerous factual errors and interpretations, that follow a bias towards the PRL position. I can only only conclude, that the journalist and the rugby paper, are intent in promoting the interests of PRL only. A seriously one sided viewpoint, wholly lacking in balance and accuracy.

  5. Martin Soutar

    Are you the same Peter Jackson of a Lord of the Rings/King Kong fame? You are excellent at writing a good yarn (entirely fictional of course)…

  6. Kevin O Brien

    The attitude of the English side in particular has been nothing short of disgraceful. They have bullishly attempted to bully Pro 12 teams to agree with the RCC. They have threatened Pro 12 clubs with no Euro rugby and with financial oblivion. They have publicly discussed the state of welsh club finances when they had no right to do so. They have dismissed the unions and IRB as inconsequential but were kind enough to say they could appoint refs and engorce rules. All this has been done through Mcafferty Wray Craig et all shouting their mouth off to the press. They have shown a complete lack of respect for rubies traditions as well as the other union. I’m not saying the ERC are perfect but they gave rubies best interest at heart. They run a successful and profitable competition. The bully boys of England and France should be faced down by the unions and IRB. For rubies sake it’s imperative that this battle is won and the Heineken cup is saved.

  7. Ultra Sur

    Is this a joke? “Celtic champions Leinster signalled their readiness last month to consider joining the new venture.” If the English media were remotely interested in presenting a balanced article between them, they’d know that Leinster CANNOT act independently of the IRFU because they are a branch of the IRFU. There has been consistent misrepresentation of the facts in the reporting of this throughout our media and it is a disgrace.

    As a clubless English rugby fan, it is very depressing how easily the media has fallen in behind PRL’s charge.

  8. brian donnelly

    Without IRB approval RCC is dead in water. This “7th place offer” (how kind!) smacks of desperation. I say to the Unions, see the bluff and put PRL/LNR in their place.

  9. John

    Jeez ye have really been suckered into believing all the guff from McCafferty, Wray and all their other cronies havent ye..
    No mention of Lapasset’s comments about the RCC being “not entirely credible”. Strange that

  10. Save The HCup (@SaveTheHCup)

    Lies and propaganda. Almost every facet of the arguments is open to interpretation and you have chosen to interpret it in a way that benefits the prospects of the PRL/LNR Axis. Two unions claim 48 % of the capital gains of the Heineken Cup while the other four unions involved claim 52%. That’s 13% per union, almost half what is claimed by PRL . Yet the PRL/LNR Axis are complaining and want to increase their take to 33% each, leaving the other unions with lass than 9% each. It is not the fault of the Pro12 unions that the clubs in the AP make so little. It is up to PRL to look at their profit margins and structure their business plan accordingly.

    RRW have given their support to the hypothetical RCC that is true. But without the agreement of their union, that is a dead duck. And that doesn’t look to be forthcoming. You also say that it is unconditional support, when it is anything but. RRW have made a specific set of demands which have to be met, including a bigger slice of the pie than the PRL/LNR Axis is currently offering.

    ERC have proven themselves to be infinitely more capable of running a competition than PRL. PRL lost 16.2 million pounds in 2011, mostly on bloated player wages and that’s before the perks to flout the salary cap that the every single person knows they are ignoring. AP attendance is dropping entire percentage points year by year, down over 200000 since 2010. Hardly the business plan of a competent and capable organisation. And yet we are supposed to hand over the governance of the European Cup to them? Not bloody likely.

    Threats of financial oblivion and extinction have abounded from the mouthpieces of PRL. The facts paint a different picture. Nigel Wray said himself in 2010 “except for two clubs, Northampton and Leicester, the majority of Premiership clubs are loss making.” If you are so certain of your own future and your lack of need for Europe, why are you fighting so hard for it? The fact is, the PRL need Europe as much, if not more than we do.

    The PRL have made no secret of the fact that this is a grab for power. The issues of governance and money are highest on the agenda and this can only be damaging for the Pro12 unions and for the game in general. PRL have caused untold damage to the history and traditions of the fantastic English clubs. They are dragging rugby in to a model comparable to the NFL in America where advertising and TV rights are the main concerns, at the cost of the fanbase and traditions of our fine game. They cannot be allowed to do so.

  11. Ian Webber

    Does anyone in their right mind think this has got anything to do with whether there’s 6 or 7 welsh/italian/scottish/ irish teams? It’s all about the politics of money, power & television… and premier rugby would earn more respect if they just came out and said so rather than treating us like idiots.
    … and this is coming from an Englishman.

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