New European rugby cup agreement set to be signed while Sky and BT talk of compromise
Published 20 March 2014 By: Henry Elkington
Rugby Union on the verge of a new European tournament
A new European Cup accord is set to be signed this week. The six nations that are party to the agreement were set to sign the agreement on Monday 17 March in Paris, however the document wasn’t translated into Italian until the weekend, and so the Italian Rugby Federation said that it needed longer to scrutinise the deal.
The administration of the tournament will be passed from European Rugby Cup Ltd to the auspices of a Six Nations committee, run day-to-day by an executive board said to be strongly influenced by the clubs and regions involved.
A new sub-committee (yet to be given a name) will be established to coordinate the commercial aspects of the tournament. The sub-committee will be constituted of representatives from each of the three leagues that will make up the tournament: the Premiership (England), Top 14 (France), Pro 12 (Wales, Scotland and Ireland). The new arrangement will give the English and French clubs an in-built majority in the decision making.
The new format of the European competition will be as follows: automatic qualification for 19 teams (the top 6 English and French teams, and 7 from the Pro 12), with the final place being awarded to the winner of a play-off match between the teams who finish 7th in the Top 14 and the Premiership (currently London Wasps and Racing Metro).
The profits from the new tournament are to be split equally between the three leagues, albeit with the Pro 12 being awarded a guaranteed £20m even if the sum fails to reach £60m, and the next £4m if the sum does reach the £60m mark. A merit element is to be brought in which alleviates the criticism of the unfairness of the distribution of profits. Quentin Smith, the Premiership Rugby chairman said “the current structure of ERC is unfair, unmeritocratic and unbalanced competition [and] that's due to the way the clubs qualify for the competition, the distribution of revenues and the seedings which are determined by performance solely in that competition in previous years and not the way clubs are performing in the current season." However, the proposed tournament seems to have addressed these issues.
Sky and BT close in on broadcasting arrangement for new European Cup
Having previously signed conflicting agreements, an arrangement between Sky Sports and BT Vision is said to be close to completion for the sharing of the television rights for Rugby Union’s new European Cup next year. Sky Sports signed a contract extension with ERC in September 2012, the same time that the Premiership clubs sold their rights for cross-border matches in a conflicting contract to BT Sport. However, the two broadcasters appear close to reconciling their difficulties, with Sky Sports managing director, Barney Francis, saying: “We are absolutely willing to take part in conversations that lead to a solution that is in the best interests of the game and for the fans. But it will take compromise, and compromise between all parties.” BT Vision chief executive, Marc Watson, echoed Francis’ thoughts by stating that he was “optimistic a solution can be found.”
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Henry is an aspiring sports lawyer, currently completing his GDL in Cardiff. Henry graduated from the Cardiff University with a B.A. in History and Philosophy. He has a passion for all sports especially rugby and tennis having played for the first team at Cardiff University.