The major shareholders of Premiership Rugby, which governs the top division of English club rugby union, are set to meet this week to discuss the latest developments in the saga surrounding the future of the European game.
The Ligue Nationale de Rugby, governing body of France’s Top 14 division, said on Thursday that French clubs would withdraw from a proposed Rugby Champions Cup put forward by Premiership Rugby and LNR to instead back a 20-team event supported by the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French and Italian unions under the auspices of European Rugby Cup.
Premiership Rugby has maintained its clubs will not participate in ERC-run tournaments, with a two-year notice period to quit ERC taking effect in June 2014.
Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby’s chief executive, has suggested that English teams will not play in European competition next season. The Press Association Sport news agency said detailed discussions on all aspects of the European debate are set to take place at this week’s meeting.
“That's the most likely outcome,” McCafferty told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, when asked if English clubs would not play in Europe next season. “It's the clubs' call on that, but from my perspective I can't see at the moment how it would be feasible for us to be in 2014-15 European competitions, if the unions, as they have said, are going to run a 20-team competition through ERC.
“We knew the French union was putting the French clubs under a lot of pressure. Those clubs are on a very tight timetable with regards to the signing of their new agreement with the French union and for their own domestic TV rights deal. But we were not pleased with the way it came out all of a sudden. I think the French clubs will say they won't play and the French union will tell six of them they have to play in this 20-team competition.”