Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

McCafferty rejects 'cartel' claim

Mark McCafferty, pictured, defended Premiership Rugby after Gareth Thomas claimed the league operates like a cartel

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has rejected claims from a Member of Parliament that the league operates like a cartel.

Gareth Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, has written to the Office Of Fair Trading with a request for the Competition Commission to investigate Premiership Rugby's funding structure. Thomas claimed that Premiership Rugby distributes money with a "clear bias" against newly-promoted clubs, because they receive less money than established top flight teams.

"There is a clear bias in how funding is distributed against teams promoted to the Premiership. The funding arrangements have all the appearance of a cartel," Thomas said. "They make it extremely difficult for newly promoted teams to survive or thrive."

He added: "The Premiership should surely be a genuine competition in which clubs battle it out on a level playing field.

"It is time that the funding of Premiership Rugby clubs became much more transparent and that newly promoted teams received appropriate funding. I hope that the Competition Commission will investigate the funding of Premiership Rugby teams."

But McCafferty denied that he operates a cartel, and he told Press Association Sport: "I would reject that. We need to emphasise that we have promotion and relegation enshrined in our system and so people have access to the top level in England.

"That is not true, for example, in the RaboDirect PRO12. That access is there and history has shown clubs can come through and establish themselves.

"Premiership Rugby has been a success story and it has been a commercial success and everyone has shared in that."

Thomas claimed in his speech to the Commons that newly-promoted teams receive £1.4million compared to the £3.5million that goes to established Premiership clubs.

Premiership Rugby strongly disputed those figures, arguing that promoted teams only receive around £800,000 less than full shareholders.

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