Bruce Craig on Global Rugby Matters

1 October 2013

Writing in a recent matchday programme, Bruce Craig, Bath Rugby Chairman, laid out his thoughts on the current European Rugby situation, and explained in detail why the English and French clubs made the decision to serve the required two year notice to the ERC in 2012, and to start their own tournament - the Rugby Champions Cup.

"Many of you may have seen the recent press release and reports and been surprised at the action taken on a bi-lateral basis by the French and English clubs. This situation has been brought about due to the necessity to put into place a competition for the 2014/15 season that at present is void of international competition. For the supporters, the clubs, and for rugby in the northern hemisphere, it is important that the English and French clubs now take the lead to attempt to save European rugby.

"My view is that new competitions should be fair. The rugby public would like to see exciting, stronger competitions in the future that have sporting equity. This has been the base of the Anglo/French position for over a year now. The proposal for two competitions with 20 teams in each is that there is qualification for the main competition through the three European leagues on a meritocratic basis (the top six clubs in each league qualify for the primary competition). There is no automatic qualification for any team, which in effect strengthens both the European competitions and, paradoxically, the Celtic domestic league.

"Secondly, my view is that there is a misrepresentation over financial distributions that should be clarified to the public. The English and French Television rights represent almost 80% of revenues in European competitions. Present distributions in the Heineken Cup are 52% for 12 teams in the Celtic league, 24% for 12 teams in the Premiership and 24% for 14 teams in the Top 14 - that is clearly unfair. In the new competitions the proposal would be for an equal 33% distribution to each league.

"My final point is that the game needs European rugby. There is no viable proposal made by any other party over the last 12 months of negotiation and the Unions' position has become more entrenched for the status quo. The English and French clubs are taking the lead to save European rugby by proposing new competitions open to all existing participants. They are fair and meritocratic and would certainly be in the public's interest. If the Unions in the coming weeks do not approve the competitions, through regulatory process, it will no doubt destroy European rugby and have catastrophic financial implications for Celtic and Italian rugby.

"The hour is grave and I sincerely hope the English and French proposals are taken seriously, and that we can all enjoy fabulous exciting European rugby in the future."

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