Heineken Cup on last legs as English and French prepare for new tournament
6:15pm Tuesday 10th September 2013 in National Rugby
THE HEINEKEN Cup looks to be doomed after English and French clubs agreed to set up a breakaway tournament, writes Chris Kirwan.
This year's competition, as well as the Amlin Challenge Cup, will be the last after deadlock in talks over its reform.
The Aviva Premiership and Top 14 clubs served their notice last year.
They stated that they wanted to see the Heineken Cup reduced from 24 teams to 20 with the culled quartet dropping into a strengthened Amlin Challenge Cup.
They also wanted the qualification criteria – which sees Newport Gwent Dragons as the sole RaboDirect Pro12 not in the elite competition – changed.
They believe that the current format favours those in the Pro12 by guaranteeing places to Scottish and Italian sides and to three out of the four Welsh and Irish outfits.
Yesterday the Premiership clubs released a statement declaring that they were resigned to the Heineken Cup being dead.
It read: "Despite numerous meetings between the stakeholders over the last year, the last of which was in May, discussions have been unsuccessful and the clubs can only conclude that negotiations on any new European agreement have now ended.
"The English and French clubs have proposed the formation of two new, stronger competitions of 20 teams each, based on the principles of qualification on merit from each league, the inclusion of teams from all six existing countries and the expansion into new markets. These proposals could form the basis of future competitions.
"However, given the importance and urgency of the current position, and the reconfirmation that the French clubs will not participate in any competition unless it includes the English clubs, the clubs have now asked Premiership Rugby to take immediate action to put in place a competition for 2014/15 to include the French and English clubs but which will also be open to teams from other countries."
The two warring factions are also squabbling over broadcast rights.
The Premiership clubs have already signed up with BT Sport as part of of a £152 million deal while European Rugby Cup Ltd has a partnership with Sky Sports.
This season's Heineken Cup final at the Millennium Stadium could be the end of a popular tournament that started in 1995.
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