Let's hope French and English see common sense over European Cups
In 1995, in his famous put-down of his own union's blazered administrators, then-England captain Will Carling said: "If the game is run properly as a professional game, you do not need 57 old farts running rugby."
Eighteen years on, we appear to have English and French clubs being similarly dismissive of the ERC, despite that body's remarkable record of good governance. It is my conviction that they are doing the ERC – and European rugby – a gross disservice.
The ERC has masterminded two compelling sister-competitions – Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge – raising the profile and cash-generation of European rugby to hitherto unimaginable heights.
Since 2004 ERC revenues have risen from €21.3m to €52.7m, a remarkable 147% increase. How many others, from whatever field, industry or sector, can produce figures anything like that? Last year France's Lique Nationale de Rugby received €12.1m, while England's Premiership Rugby got €10m. Their counterparts in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy benefited to the tune of €6.6m, €4.9m, €4.9m and €4.6m respectively.
When rugby's European Cup began in 1995, a total of 84,035 in-stadium spectators watched it. In 2012 the Ulster-Leinster final alone attracted that number to Twickenham. Last season, 1,061,965 watched the series – phenomenal growth.
The same is true of television exposure. Under the ERC's management, the Heineken Cup-Amlin Challenge package is broadcast to 150 territories worldwide.
So let us hope that in their determination to force change, Premiership Rugby and Lique Nationale de Rugby do not forget what has been achieved by the creators and administrators of whom they are so contemptuous.
And whatever else happens, in the words of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe: "For the good of the game let's hope that common sense prevails."