By Alan Dymock
POLITICAL WAR is upon us now, and it is all thanks to the decision of Premiership Rugby to finally decide how they will propose an alternative to the Heineken Cup.
In a press release issued yesterday their statement read: “The English and French clubs have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each, based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new markets. These proposals could form the basis of future competitions.”
All at once there were questions. How would the Celtic nations react? What did ‘emerging markets’ mean? Had they ensured sponsorship already?
It is a bullish move and one months in the making. They know that the current Heineken Cup contract expires at the end of this season and so now was the time to act. Now ‘other nations’ have six weeks to join the bus. This is clarified in the second half of the statement: “However, given the importance and urgency of the current position, and the reconfirmation that the French clubs will not participate in any competition unless it includes the English clubs, the clubs have now asked Premiership Rugby to take immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014/15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries.”
The timing is interesting. With news swirling of a Super Rugby, SANZAR shake-up it will have been both a relief and a nuisance to learn of plans for another South African franchise and a dedication to continue competing in the south. This is also why ‘new markets’ is so intriguing.
There are plans afoot to secure finances, certainly, and any new competitions must offer English sides versus French sides, for the obvious financial and commercial pull.
With battle lines drawn we must wait for Celtic Rugby to react. “Despite numerous meetings between the stakeholders over the last year, the last of which was in May, discussions have been unsuccessful and the clubs can only conclude that negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended,” it is said by Premiership Rugby.
Do the other clubs have a proposal in their back-pocket? At this stage it seams unlikely.
This will run and run over the coming months.