English will offer £100m bait to land their jackpot

Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Premier Rugby England’s Premier clubs will go into Tuesday’s meeting with their Heineken Cup colleagues with a £100m cheque to place on the bargaining table.
Premier Rugby (PRL) must attempt to persuade clubs from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy to sign up to their deal with BT Vision if they are to forge ahead with the contract with the digital provider.
French club representatives will also be in attendance at the meeting of the European Rugby Cup (ERC) in Dublin. The French, like the English, have signalled their intention to quit the Heineken Cup in 2014 but are yet to offer their support for the new £152m BT deal.
Just hours after PRL announced the BT millions last week, ERC revealed their four-year Sky deal. Both contracts run from 2014-2018.
The Sky money is believed to be worth £70m to the Heineken clubs over that period. PRL could trump that with £100m out of the £152m BT deal – and the clubs would still be free to negotiate their own TV deals on top.
The main purpose of Tuesday’s meeting had originally been to discuss the qualification rules for Heineken Cup participation from 2014. English and French clubs are demanding more places with fewer from the RaboDirect PRO12 where only two of the 12 teams miss out.
The 24 Heineken places comprise: six from the Aviva Premiership, six from French Top 14, 10 from PRO12 plus the Heineken and Amlin Cup winners.
Supporters of the current arrangements insist a European Cup needs competitors from all countries, meaning the Scots and Italians, particularly, are protected.
A compromise, which the PRL look likely to float, would be for one team from each country to be guaranteed entry.
England ERC representatives are the RFU’s Rob Andrew and PRL’s Peter Wheeler, Leicester chief executive. Wheeler is expected to get a bumpy ride over PRL’s unilateral action, especially as he was at a June ERC board meeting which was minuted as unanimously agreeing to Sky’s deal.
PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty would like three European competitions – a 20-team Heineken Cup, a 20-team Amlin Cup, and third smaller competition to take place in September between teams from Georgia, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Romania. McCafferty said: “There’s no European competition for anyone after 2014 and everyone is trying to decide what should replace it.
“Whichever way, there’ll be new competitions after 2014, we’ve just got to decide on the format of those and try to come up with an agreement.
“Because of the way we had to do the BT deal we haven’t had the opportunity yet to explain to people the benefits – i.e. the amount of money we can put in the pot, which is substantially better than they’ve previously been enjoying. Once they see that I hope they’ll be open-minded.
“The deal covers domestic rugby but also the rights of our games in any future competition. There are going to be values attached to that and we are putting them into a European pot which will presumably include whatever future deals French clubs do.
“That will be better for everyone in Europe, so rather than people arguing over how to divide up the current cake, we have made a much bigger cake that hopefully facilitates a financial conversation that can be interesting for everyone.”
McCafferty’s vision chimes with BT’s broadcast strategy for whom chief executive Marc Watson has promised a “dazzling” new European tournament.
He said: “We are looking to set up, or help set up, a dazzling new European tournament, with we hope, all the best clubs. The Heineken Cup has another season to run and that will be the end, and we’re looking to set up a brand new tournament from then.”
DAVID EMERY, editor

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