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SRU chief hopeful over Heineken Cup

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson sees no reason why Glasgow and Edinburgh would leave the European Rugby Cup umbrella and join an Anglo-French breakaway.

Dodson insists he can understand the frustration of Premiership Rugby and Ligue Nationale de Rugby over the current format of European competition, which sees Glasgow and Edinburgh automatically enter the Heineken Cup while English and French clubs need to qualify.

But he believes the European game is best served by finding compromise under the current set-up rather than accepting an invitation to join the Rugby Champions Cup, which is proposed to start next season.

Dodson, speaking at the Scottish launch of this season's Heineken Cup in Glasgow, said: "If the ERC had been a failure, you would think about moving on. But when you look at the track record of success, why would you want to ditch a tournament that the fans love, the players love, and is growing in value year on year?

"What it might need is a certain amount of tweaking to make it even better and fairer and more equitable, but I'm certain the Heineken Cup is where we should be."

When asked if he could understand the Anglo-French concerns, Dodson said: "We can. We look at this from their position as well and we have some sympathy with it.

"But it's about how you protect the professional game across the whole of Europe.

"We are all built on different models. There is a club model there (in England) which is independent, the same in France, and yet we have union-controlled clubs in Scotland and Ireland and Italy, and a slightly different model in Wales.

"We have to respect each other and find a way to make everybody happy and everybody feel positive about taking part in the competition. There may be some tweaking to be done.

"I would hate people to think we don't care about the English and French clubs' position. We do. But they equally have to respect our competition.

"We are happy to talk about qualification, we are happy to talk about financial distribution, we are happy to tweak governance.

"What we need to establish for the fans, the sponsors and people who watch us on television, is to get something out there quickly, to get this thing resolved, and we can start looking forward to the Heineken Cup for many years to come."

Dodson does not believe the situation has reached an impasse, despite English clubs' seemingly entrenched position and their decision to snub ERC talks on October 23-24.

"I think what they say and what will actually happen will be two different things," he said. "I think there's a lot of statements in the press that seem to suggest that. I think the actuality is somewhat different.

"The fact they still want other clubs to join them in the tournament and are inviting us to join, shows that they don't want an Anglo-French tournament, they actually want a pan-European competition.

"I think we have got to look at how people are negotiating in the press and how people are negotiating behind closed doors, and there's a difference between the two.

"We are confident this thing will be resolved and we are going to work night and day to make sure that happens, by getting people in a room and making sure we talk about the real issues and make sure this competition is alive and well for many years to come."


From Belfast Telegraph