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Euro chief issues breakaway warning

European Rugby chief executive Derek McGrath claims plans for an Anglo-French breakaway tournament will not deliver improvement on the Heineken Cup.

English and French clubs have served notice to leave European Rugby Cup-run events and have invited Celtic and Italian teams to join them in their own Rugby Champions Cup.

McGrath again urged them to return to negotiations to find a unified solution as the Heineken Cup launch reached Glasgow on Wednesday, but he also warned that clubs from both countries would be worse off if they pursue their plan.

McGrath said: "They have declared that they wish to move on and achieve alternative possibilities. My view is that they are not going to provide.

"Having looked at them, I don't see anything in there that can be substantiated, that is going to achieve anything like we have, not only in terms of the events but how the game is developing and how the games are run in each country.

"All of the unions have now said that any cross-border competition would need to be approved from within those regulations."

McGrath believes a split would be detrimental to both Engish and French rugby as well as in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy.

"I think it would have a serious impact on the development of the game in each of those countries, but I say that including England and France," he said.

"In rugby, the international game is still financially the driver of the game across the world. The clubs know that too, while at the same time being very ambitious for their own future and the ability of their leagues to grow and thrive.

"But in the midst of all that the European competition has established itself and there is no doubt that growth can continue."

The Anglo-French alliance comes amid frustration from clubs over financial distribution models and also their need to qualify for the Heineken Cup while clubs such as Glasgow and Edinburgh automatically play in the premier European competition.

McGrath said: "There is room for compromise and I think that's been signalled by each of the countries, that they are ready to compromise.

"I can understand, if you walk into this debate now, you would say: 'Why is that the way it is?'

"Well, the way it is structured has been built over 18 years.

"In our last discussions six years ago, we discussed the point that if we were to change and have a meritocratic cup competition as has been suggested now, that would remove the possibility for, let's say Scottish teams, to play at a high enough level to develop their competitive quality.

"It's a very valid question now: has that moved on and therefore can we now perhaps look at it in a different way?"

McGrath stressed that there was significant "behind-the-scenes" activity designed to reach agreement despite Premiership clubs insisting they would not attend an ERC summit on October 23-24.

He added: "When individual interests overtake the single and unified interest, that's when progress becomes very difficult to achieve.

"I'm confident that everybody now who is involved in our discussions is ready to make change, but we need engagement. I'm very confident we can find an outcome.

"We have the benefit of seeing this before. We have seen this in '99 and in 2007. We are 15 months into a two-year negotiating period. There is still time.

"There are only two certainties so far in this process despite everything you are consuming - the start of the process and when it will finish. Everything else is rhetoric.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."


From Belfast Telegraph