Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Ritchie calls for cup decision

RFU chief Ian Ritchie wants clarity on the future of the Heineken Cup
RFU chief Ian Ritchie wants clarity on the future of the Heineken Cup

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie insists negotiations over the future of the Heineken Cup are a "matter of urgency" - while European Rugby Cup delay the next round of talks until October 23.

English and French clubs are demanding structural, qualification and financial changes to the European competitions and have declared they will form an Anglo-French tournament next season, which teams from other nations are free to join.

Ritchie, speaking at the two years to go milestone for the 2015 World Cup, stressed the need to find a resolution as quickly as possible.

ERC, however, have decided to wait six weeks before staging the next instalment of talks at a time when Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby are actively seeking to create an alternative to the Heineken Cup.

The RFU, placed in a difficult position due to their interest in ERC and loyalty to Premiership clubs, have adopted a careful public line that was maintained by Ritchie on Tuesday.

Ritchie stated that any competition must include all European nations and is "optimistic" a compromise will be reached, but refused to "give up our negotiating position in public".

"It's important for the game as a whole that we get these negotiations settled. I certainly get that they must be dealt with as a matter of urgency," Ritchie said.

"The objectives are clear - we want to see a meritocratic competition in Europe, both competitively and in terms of financial distribution. Our clubs are very keen on that.

"Our view as well is that we would seek to achieve a European competition that would involve clubs from Scotland, Wales, France - wherever.

"We must find the right balance of negotiation between those parties because obviously it's important for our clubs in England and we want to support our clubs in England.

"Is it occasionally fraught, challenging and difficult? All of the above, but that's what we have to try and get to.

"I don't minimise the difficulties. There are passionate, strongly-held views on all sides. I am ever the optimist."

Recriminations continued on Tuesday when ERC president Jean-Pierre Lux accused the English and French clubs of using "guerilla" tactics.

Any new competition such as the proposed Anglo-French tournament would have to be ratified by the RFU, the French Rugby Federation and International Rugby Board.

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