All nine stakeholders, including the IRFU, have reached an agreement ensuring the continuation and development of European club rugby competitions, it has been confirmed tonight.
The heads of agreement – the principles behind the deal – were signed by the nine stakeholders, who have underlined their commitment to an invigorated competition which meets the requirements of all the parties involved.
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).
The newly-announced European Rugby Champions Cup is a truly meritocratic tournament, with appropriate division of finances, underpinned by a long-term agreement and strong governance, starting in the 2014/15 season.
Three cross-border club competitions to be called the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new competition called the Qualifying Competition.
An association shall be established in Switzerland called ‘European Professional Club Rugby’ (EPCR). This body will be responsible for organising and managing the cup competitions.
EUROPEAN RUGBY CHAMPIONS CUP
20 teams qualifying through the finishing positions in their leagues from the preceding season:
Top six teams from France’s Top 14 Championship, top six from the English Premiership and top seven from the PRO 12, with at least one team from each country participating in the league.
The 20th place will be taken by the winners of a play-off between – for the first season – the seventh highest finishing club from the Top 14 and the seventh highest finishing club from the English Premiership.
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 and away.
For subsequent seasons, the seventh highest finishing club from the Top 14, the seventh highest finishing club from the English Premiership and the eighth and ninth highest finishing sides from the PRO12 (or the two highest finishing which have not already qualified automatically).
From 2015 season, if the previous season’s European Rugby Challenge Cup champions have 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-offs will take place over two dates.
– First date: seventh team from the Top 14 versus eighth or ninth from the PRO12, and the seventh club from the English Premiership versus eighth or ninth from the PRO12.
The matches will be played at the home venues of the Top 14 and England Premiership clubs.
– Second date: The two winners from the first matches. The venue will be selected by a draw.
EUROPEAN RUGBY CHALLENGE CUP
20 teams comprising 18 teams from France’s Top 14, the English Premiership and PRO12, and two clubs from the qualifying competition organised with FIRA-AER (Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby).
The competitions 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 (6 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.
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 eight and 12 teams from tier 2 countries and Italian clubs as agreed by EPCR & FIRA-AER.
EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby)
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, English Premiership and PRO12. 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.
It is a minimum eight-year agreement.
Equal distribution of funds, i.e. a third to Top 14 teams, a third to English Premiership teams and a third to PRO 12 teams, with a guaranteed minimum distribution for the teams from the PRO12 in years 1-5.
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.
Click here for details of the European rugby broadcast deal between BT Sport and Sky Sports.