Rugby: European tournament to go ahead

12th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

DUBLIN, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - Rugby union's top European club tournament will go ahead next season although the competition is still likely to be missing major clubs.

DUBLIN, April 11, 2007 (AFP) - Rugby union's top European club tournament will go ahead next season although the competition is still likely to be missing major clubs.

European Rugby Cup (ERC) shareholders have defied the recent boycott by some of England and France's top clubs by announcing after meetings here on Wednesday that a European club rugby tournament will be held.

It will include teams from all six of the current participating nations - England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy - although its structure has yet to be discussed and agreed upon by ERC board members.

Representatives from the six participating unions, plus English and Italian club representatives and a regional representative from Wales, attended the meeting.

"The ERC will organise a tournament, that is for sure," ERC president Jean-Pierre Lux told AFP.

"The federations present at the meeting, including the French and the English, agreed to put up teams.

"What teams will they be? That is for them to say, not me."

Currently, England's Premiership clubs and leading French sides will not participate in the European Cup or European Challenge Cup next term.

They withdrew last week, blaming the Rugby Football Union's refusal to hand English clubs half their shares in ERC, though, many believe the real reason for the French boycott is down to the fact of fixture congestion following the World Cup which they are hosting in September and October.

The sport's world governing body the International Rugby Board (IRB) offered to allow the French to continue their championship during the World Cup - which they normally don't allow - but were turned down because of pressure from the broadcaster who hold the rights to the domestic championship.

Both the French and the English clubs have been blasted by the IRB president Dr Syd Millar, with the former Irish rugby great saying their decision was shameful and egotistical.

Millar's outburst received short shrift from Serge Blanco, president of the National Rugby League (LNR) and chief architect of the boycott.

"These attacks are not worthy of the highest official in world rugby," said Blanco in a letter to Millar.

"It is us (the clubs) who put in place the European Cup.

"With our guts, our ideas, our teams, our supporters and our sponsors.

"Mister president, resume your habit of judging, stop condemning and take in hand the problems which are undermining our sport.

"We are not asking for money or to seize power.

"Simply to be recognised as partners alongside the federations in the organisation of a tournament that we compete in."

RFU chairman Martyn Thomas expressed his satisfaction at the decision and added he hoped that the clubs involved would come from the top tier.

"We are delighted that there will be a European club rugby tournament involving English clubs next season.

"We hope that these will be from the Premiership and as rugby's national governing body we are committed to English club participation in the competition."

If the two European tournaments had been abandoned for one season, the Celtic unions estimated they would lose in the region of two million pounds each.

Scottish rugby is already 20 million pounds (29 million euros) in debt and doubts whether it could survive without the ERC cash.

If the likes of Leicester, Wasps and Gloucester do not return to the fold, it means clubs from National League One such as Doncaster, Rotherham and Cornish Pirates would provide probable English representation in Europe next season.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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