Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

ERC to examine cup proposals

ERC will examine two different proposals for a new-look Heineken Cup

European Rugby Cup Limited will examine two alternative proposals for a new-look Heineken Cup competition.

The decision finally marks a modicum of progress in the row over the future shape of European rugby, following two unproductive meetings and one controversial one.

ERC will evaluate plans for a 20-team tournament, tabled by the English and French clubs, and the Rabodirect PRO12 proposal for a 32-team competition. The results of the evaluation will be presented at the next meeting of ERC stakeholders, to be held in London on December 12.

Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts want all teams in a new-look competition to qualify on merit, removing the guaranteed places currently enjoyed by PRO12 clubs.

The English and French also want the money to be split evenly between the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and Rabodirect PRO12. Currently, the PRO12 receive 52% of the income.

But the Celtic and Italian clubs have staunchly opposed the Anglo-French proposal and have not been willing to give up guaranteed qualification.

The PRO12's counter-proposal of a 32-team tournament was presented at a meeting in Paris last week - to which the English clubs were not invited - and has already been rejected by the French.

The idea would be for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup to be replaced with one big European competition. The Premiership do not like it because it would leave the bottom two clubs in the English top flight without any European rugby.

"This evaluation will examine the rationale for the proposed changes to both tournaments, as well as the impact on all stakeholders of any change to the format and structure of the competitions," the ERC said in a statement.

Any changes would come into force from 2014.

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