Entente Cordiale looks set to split European rugby

6th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French rugby great and now National Rugby League (LNR) president Serge Blanco insisted that the French decision to boycott next season's European Cup does not mean they have effectively killed the tournament.

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French rugby great and now National Rugby League (LNR) president Serge Blanco insisted that the French decision to boycott next season's European Cup does not mean they have effectively killed the tournament.

However with the English as expected joining them in not competing in next season's tournament it has left the competition looking distinctly shorn of class and those clubs remaining facing a financial nightmare with some estimating they will lose 500,000 pounds worth of revenue.

Ostensibly both the French and the English claim they share the same concerns that the English have been sold short by their governing body the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in not being offered shares in the ERC.

"That will be a first the French coming to the aid of the English," commented sarcastically one English rugby insider.

Many including English director of rugby Rob Andrew share the view that the French are doing it for other reasons rather than a renewed sense of Entente Cordiale.

He believes the French are using it as a smokescreen and their real reason is fixture congestion following the World Cup which they are hosting in September and October.

The sport's governing body the IRB had told AFP back in January they had offered to allow the French to conduct their championship during the World Cup - which they normally don't permit - but it had been flatly turned down because the broadcaster of domestic rugby did not want them to play during the global showpiece as they would be missing a lot of star players.

"They (the French clubs) have television contractual obligations on them and their problem is completely different to the ones we face with our clubs," said Andrew on Tuesday.

Blanco, though, steadfastly refused to budge from the stance taken officially by the French, and even turned down a last-minute offer by French Federation president Bernard Lapasset of a 15.66 percent shreholding over the next two years allowing the present English contract to come to an end.

"It is imperative above all that the rest of the world knows that the French did not kill the European Cup off," he said. "Today we feel betrayed by international cirucmstances."

However if both Blanco and the English clubs don't believe they have killed off the tournament then Lapasset was having a tough old time of summoning up much optimism for its future.

"The European Cup is vital but it will be extremely difficult to rebuild," said Lapasset.

The ERC didn't even put the news up on its website initially but later announced they would be discussing the issues next week.

The Welsh Rugby Federation (WRU) stated they were deeply worried by the situation.

"We are deeply worried, not only for rugby but also for the players because their incomes are being threatened," said the WRU managing director Roger Lewis.

"We have always spoken to all the parties concerned and we will continue to do so."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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