Rugby: EU Cup on edge ahead of French meeting

4th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 4, 2007 (AFP) - The financial welfare of many European clubs will be at stake when French clubs meet on Thursday to decide whether or not to follow through with their threat to boycott the European Cup.

PARIS, April 4, 2007 (AFP) - The financial welfare of many European clubs will be at stake when French clubs meet on Thursday to decide whether or not to follow through with their threat to boycott the European Cup.

The French held off from taking that decision after French Federation president Bernard Lapasset asked them to so he could hold talks with their English counterparts.

However with the English having decided to follow suit if the French do agree to boycott next season's tournament it appears that the jewel in the crown of northern hemisphere club rugby is under serious threat.

That is certainly the viewpoint of Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premier Rugby, who told AFP there was no point in competing without the French clubs being involved.

"If the French clubs are not in, it's not a European cup," said McCafferty, whose body took the decision ironically just a day after England had seen three of their clubs qualify for the European Cup for the first time.

"While sometimes the English don't consider themselves part of Europe, with all due to respect to anyone, a tournament without the French clubs is not a European tournament.

"We don't want to go to court over that but it seems to me, we cannot be forced into a competition that is not a true European competition."

Both the French and the English have claimed that they share the same reason for the threatened boycott - the Rugby Football Union (RFU) granting English clubs equal shareholding in the European Cup.

However many in the RFU, including director of rugby Rob Andrew, share the view that the French are using that 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.

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

"The European Cup disagreement with our clubs is just one of several isssues we have with them."

The English clubs' decision to follow the French was not exactly met with joy by Lapasset either, though, the man with whom he has been jousting, French playing legend Serge Blanco, now president of the French National League, applauded their stance.

"I find the English clubs' decision extraordinarily courageous," he said sarcastically.

"It provokes this reflection from me 'Mister Frenchman, fire the first shot'.

"I do not find this very courageous. All it does is send the ball back into the French court."

Court is exactly where the RFU are threatening to take the Premier clubs if they do follow through with their threat to boycott the competition.

But while the tournament itself would be seriously damaged it would be nothing compared to the financial impact on the clubs from the remaining countries left competing.

"It (the boycott) will cost 500,000 pounds (approximately 750,000 euros) for each Welsh province," Llanelli Scarlets chief executive Stuart Gallacher told AFP.

"It is a fifth of our budget. It will be a huge blow to the Welsh sides just as it will be for the Irish and the Scots."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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