Rugby: European Cup boycott confirmed

5th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French rugby union clubs confirmed their boycott of next season's European Cup, the French National League (LNR) president Serge Blanco announced on Thursday.

PARIS, April 5, 2007 (AFP) - French rugby union clubs confirmed their boycott of next season's European Cup, the French National League (LNR) president Serge Blanco announced on Thursday.

They are likely to be followed by English clubs as they had announced earlier in the week that if French sides went through with their threat they would also not play in next season's tournament.

Should the English follow suit - only days after they gained a record three teams in the last four of this season's tournament - it will cast serious doubts over the future of the competition and have major financial repercussions for the clubs such as the Welsh and Irish sides still willing to compete in it.

There were 14 votes in favour and just three against, two from the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and that of Jean-Pierre Lux, president of the European Rugby Cup (ERC).

"The LNR board confirmed their position taken in January that they would not compete in the European Cup competitions (also includes the Challenge Cup)," said Blanco.

Their decision came despite a last minute offer from FFR president Bernard Lapasset offering French clubs 15.66 percent shareholding in the ERC till 2009, which would have given the English clubs time to resolve their differences with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) as that is when their present contract runs out.

"We appreciated the offer, but we think that it is not necessary to hold talks at a French level, but more between the respective European Federations," said Blanco.

Both the French and the English have claimed that they share the same reason for the 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 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.

The non-participation of both the French and English sides - who between them have won the trophy nine times in its 11 editions - would seriously damage the status of the tournament itself.

However 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 on Tuesday.

"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," added Gallacher, whose side has already spent a fortune on players for next season.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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