All nine stakeholders (listed below) are delighted to confirm that a Heads of Agreement ensuring the continuation and development of European club rugby competitions has been signed. The parties have underlined their commitment to an invigorated competition which meets the requirements of all the parties involved. It is a truly meritocratic tournament, with appropriate division of finances, underpinned by a long-term agreement and strong governance, starting in the 2014/2015 season.
There will be three cross-border club competitions, called the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new competition called the Qualifying Competition.
The organisation and management of the Cup Competitions will be conducted by an association established in Switzerland called 'European Professional Club Rugby' (EPCR).
BT and Sky have reached an agreement in principle concerning arrangements for the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup competitions, both of which would be broadcast jointly by BT Sport and Sky Sports. The pool matches would be shared equally, both will show two quarter finals each, one semi-final each and the final would be broadcast by both live. The four year agreement is subject to contract.
"These new club competitions will create top quality sporting drama for our supporters and commercial partners across Europe," said Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby's Chief Executive.
"They deliver a stronger playing format for everyone. We are now entering a new phase of growth in the club game and alongside the three professional leagues, we're confident that the new competitions will go from strength to strength, as well as incorporate new markets over time."
The new formats are based on key principles which have been consistent throughout the negotiations:
- Qualification on merit;
- Strengthening of both competitions;
- Expansion into new markets; and,
- Fair financial distributions.
McCafferty added: "This is an historic day for European club rugby. The parties have worked hard to get to this point and the uncertainty is now over. However, there is little time to reflect as we have a great deal still to do to ensure both competitions fulfil their ultimate potential. Clubs in all three leagues are now battling for qualification and it is only just over five weeks until the play-off for the final place in next season's European Rugby Champions Cup. There are exciting times ahead for supporters."
European Rugby Champions Cup qualification:
20 clubs qualifying through the finishing positions in their leagues from the preceding season:
- top 6 from TOP 14
- top 6 from Premiership Rugby
- top 7 from PRO 12, with at least one club from each country participating in the league
- the 20th place will be taken by the winner of a play-off between:
For the 1st season: The 7th highest finishing club from TOP 14 and the 7th highest finishing club from Premiership Rugby. This play off will be played in May 2014, either as one match (in which case, there will be a draw for home advantage) or as home/away.
For subsequent seasons: The 7th highest finishing club from TOP 14, the 7th highest finishing club from Premiership Rugby and the 8th and 9th highest finishing clubs from PRO 12 (or the two highest finishing which have not already qualified automatically).
From 2015 season, if the previous season's European Rugby Challenge Cup winner has not already qualified through its finishing position in its league, it will participate in the play off by taking a place given to its league.
The play-off will take place over two dates.
- 1st date: 7th club of TOP 14 versus 8th or 9th from PRO 12 and the 7th club of Premiership Rugby versus 8th or 9th from PRO 12. The matches will be played at the home venues of the TOP 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs.
- 2nd date: The two winners from the first matches. The venue will be selected by a draw.
European Rugby Challenge Cup qualification:
- 20 clubs comprising 18 clubs from TOP 14, Premiership Rugby and PRO 12
- 2 clubs from the qualifying competition organised with FIRA-AER (Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby)
Format of both Competitions: The competition will take place over nine weekends. The Pool phase will be through five Pools of four teams which will play each other home and away (six matches). The five Pool winners and the three best runners up will qualify for the Quarter Finals. The Quarter Finals will be played at the home venues of the four best Pool winners. The Quarter Final winners will play the Semi Finals and the Semi Final winners will play the Final.
Calendar of both Competitions: The Pool phase will be played in three blocks of two weekends and will be completed by the end of January. The Final will take place latest the first weekend of May.
The Qualifying Competition will compromise between 8 and 12 teams from Tier 2 countries and Italian clubs as agreed by EPCR & FIRA-AER.
EPCR will be managed through a Board of Directors representing all parties and an Executive committee in charge of commercial matters and assisting with preparations of Board meetings. The EPCR Board shall have an Independent Chairman.
The EPCR Executive will comprise the Independent Chairman, Director-General, and three voting representatives, one from each of the leagues – namely the TOP 14, Premiership Rugby and PRO 12. The Director-General shall manage the day to day operations of EPCR.
Competitions will be under the aegis of the IRB and run according to the IRB Laws Relating to the Game and IRB Regulations. The parties have also agreed to form a working party to discuss and propose the principles of an integration of European competitions within an all-encompassing European rugby framework.
A minimum eight year agreement.
Equal distribution of funds. i.e. A third to TOP 14 teams, a third to Premiership Rugby teams and a third to PRO 12 teams, with a guaranteed minimum distribution for the clubs from the Pro12 in years 1-5.
The nine parties are: Federation Francaise de Rugby (FFR), Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Ligue Nationale De Rugby (LNR), Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL), Regional Rugby Wales Ltd (RRW), The Rugby Football Union (RFU), Scottish Rugby Union PLC (SRU) and The Welsh Rugby Union Ltd (WRU).
ERC Ltd. The parties take seriously their obligations to ERC and their staff and will ensure an orderly and proper transition to the new association