Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Dodson: I'd accept loss of cup slot

Mark Dodson is not concerned about Scotland relinquishing an automatic Heineken Cup slot

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson insists he is not scared of losing one of Scotland's automatic Heineken Cup slots.

Both Glasgow and Edinburgh are guaranteed a place in European rugby's premier competition under the current arrangements but that could all change if English and French clubs continue with their plans to withdraw next year and set up their own tournament.

Top sides from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14 are unhappy with the qualification system that sees Scotland's two representatives given places, no matter where they finish in the RaboDirect Pro12.

Glasgow currently top the division - which also includes four Welsh and Irish sides, as well as a pair of hopefuls from Italy - but Edinburgh are rock bottom with just one win.

Yet with no relegation from the Pro12, the English and French sides claim their Celtic and Italian rivals gain an unfair advantage because they are able to rest players from league matches ahead of crucial Heineken Cup dates.

But Dodson insists he has no problem handing back one of the nation's two automatic places, but insists there must be compromises made by the rebels too.

Speaking as the SRU announced a new sponsorship agreement with ticket firm viagogo, he told Press Association Sport: "When I first came here, I said I would focus on professional rugby as well as the international team.

"The targets we have been setting for both Glasgow and Edinburgh are for them both to be in the top four of the RaboDirect Pro12.

"So for us to say we are against meritocracy would be crazy because our ambitions are to be challenging in the Rabo every year.

"We're not frightened of meritocracy. We believe if Edinburgh finished 11th last year, they should not be involved in the Heineken Cup.

"But what we would like to do is ensure that there is a rounded and fair solution. We are prepared to look at meritocracy and some of the other tweaks that might need to be made to allow that to happen.

"But don't let anyone be under any doubt, we are working very hard to make this work.

"There has to be give and take. It can't be all take or it won't work.

"We understand, we need to modernise and I have some sympathy with the English clubs' predicament. But they are working with a mix of models.

"It doesn't work only the way the French and English leagues work. The Celtic and Italian clubs are run in a fundamentally different way."

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