THE PRESIDENTS OF the Top 14 clubs are set to meet close to Paris on Thursday to make a final decision on their future involvement in European club rugby.
The PRL [Premier Rugby Ltd.] has long counted the French clubs as their ally and partner in forming the new Rugby Champions Cup next season, having received vocal support from Paul Goze, the president of the LNR [Ligue Nationale de Rugby] – the umbrella organisation that represents the interests of the Top 14 teams.
However, that agreement is understood to be on the brink of ruin this evening, with strong suggestions that the LNR will tomorrow cede to the wishes of French rugby’s governing body, the FFR [Fédération Française de Rugby], and agree to play on in the Heineken Cup next season.
Pierre Camou has been insistent that the LNR has been completely ignoring French rugby law by agreeing to play in the Rugby Champions Cup, and it seems now that the Top 14 clubs’ presidents may admit to defeat in this particular battle.
The Top 14 clubs are unhappy with the governing rule the FFR has over them and an agreement is in place for the LNR to assume more of the organizational responsibility for French club rugby with the signing of a new accord between the parties on the 7th of December.
However, FFR president Pierre Camou is threatening to renege on that agreement if the Top 14 clubs do not agree to remain an in ERC [European Rugby Cup]-run competition next season. Further complicating the issue from the LNR’s point of view is the fact that the Top 14 TV rights are set to be lucratively renewed next month, a move which the FFR could also hinder.
Leading French rugby journalist Arnaud David, writing in Sud Ouest, suggests that Toulouse, Clermont, Montpellier and Jacky Lorenzetti’s Racing Métro are ready to engage the FFR in ‘a conflict’, but says that the other 10 clubs feel they must look after their own priorities rather than continuing to support the English.
The ERC, led by the Irish, Scottish, Italian and Welsh regions has conceded to exactly the demands that the French clubs made when they insisted they would leave the Heineken Cup and it now appears that the LNR will fall in line with the FFR.
How the English clubs react to that would be a fascinating story of its own.
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