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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

More doubt cast over future of Heineken Cup as ERC stops payments to clubs

A statement was released last night with officials set to reconvene on 19 February.

ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath and Jean-Pierre Lux ERC Independent Chairman (file photo).
ERC Chief Executive Derek McGrath and Jean-Pierre Lux ERC Independent Chairman (file photo).
Image: Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE FUTURE OF the European Cup has been plunged into fresh doubt after officials refused to release payments owed to competing clubs.

Following a board meeting of European Rugby Cup at its Dublin headquarters, tournament chiefs said they would reconvene on 19 February.

ERC is facing the threat of extinction, with moves afoot to have the continent’s top club rugby union events run by another organisation next season.

England’s Premiership clubs, threatening to launch a breakaway Rugby Champions Cup because of unhappiness with the current qualifying and payment structure, want the Six Nations committee to oversee the continent’s leading club tournament next season.

It is a position both French and Welsh clubs have said they would accept.

In the midst of the uncertainty ERC, whose distribution of money to teams comes via their national unions — another sore point as far as the Premiership is concerned — is understood to be witholding funds as they seek clarification over their potential liabilities were they to be wound up at the end of the season.

Yesterday’s statement said there had been “unanimous” agreement.

But Regional Rugby Wales (RRW), the umbrella group for the four Welsh professional clubs were not represented on Wednesday, having yet to nominate a replacement for Stuart Gallacher, who stepped down from the ERC board in December, and both Scottish Rugby representatives did not attend on Wednesday.

The vote to postpone any decision followed preliminary advice received by the board, and was taken in the best interests of the company after lengthy discussions,” the ERC statement said.

“The board agreed unanimously that further detailed legal and other professional advice was necessary in order to facilitate the ongoing discussions in relation to the future of European club rugby tournaments and the distribution of funds deriving from the 2013/14 season.

“Each season, ERC makes five payments of its distributable funds from its central revenues to the six participant countries from October through to September.

“At the ERC Board meeting of 11 September 2013, it was decided that distribution payments should be approved by the board before any funds are released.

“The first payment of €15 million (£12.4m, $20m) was made in October 2013 following board approval.”

The ERC board comprises representatives from the six country unions, Premiership Rugby, Regional Rugby Wales and France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby.

- © AFP, 2014

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