Mediator appointed in European row
European Rugby Cup has appointed an independent mediator in their attempts to thrash out a new tournament agreement for the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup competitions.
Canadian lawyer Graeme Mew has been brought in for what appears to be a thankless task.
ERC plans the next round of negotiations to be on October 23, which has further antagonised English and French clubs.
Premiership Rugby and their French counterparts Ligue Nationale de Rugby have already announced their own plans for a new Anglo-French tournament next term - while also inviting teams from other nations - after failing to make headway with ERC over financial, qualification and competition structure changes that they want.
The existing tournament accord expires next summer, but there is no immediate prospect of English or French clubs getting back around the negotiating table. They served notice to quit the current agreement last year.
In announcing Mew's appointment, ERC said he will act as a "neutral mediator."
Mew, ERC said, will make contact with all 10 signatory organisations to the current ERC accord "with a view to seeking their engagement, and to understanding their positions and objectives."
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux said: "The nomination of a neutral mediator and the creation of an independent and confidential process now provides for an opportunity for serious engagement and genuine decisive negotiations on the part of all ERC decision-makers.
"More than one year has passed since notice was served on the accord, and no proposal to date has received sufficient support to provide the basis for progress.
"Graeme Mew's nomination provides a hugely valuable opportunity to find an agreed solution which will benefit all European club rugby stakeholders."
And International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "The IRB believes in a truly European competition and strongly urges all stakeholders to return to the table under a fully independent process for important and urgent discussions to work towards achieving a sensible resolution that is in the best interests of the European game.
"The IRB proposed Graeme Mew as he is a leading international mediator with a strong and successful blend of sporting and business dispute resolution experience. and he understands the governance structure of rugby."
Mew has served as a judicial and appeals officer for IRB since 2001. He is also a specialist member of the Football Association's judicial panel and been a member of ad hoc panels of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the London 2012 Olympics and 2010 Commonwealth Games.