Couldn't find this posted elsewhere, they're at it again!
Premiership and Top 14 clubs threaten breakaway from Heineken Cup
• English and French clubs want qualifying process changed
• Premiership chief says Celtic nations have unfair advantage
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Premiership and Top 14 clubs have threatened to break up the Heineken Cup format by forming a new tournament. Photograph: Paul Harding/Action Images
The leading clubs in the Aviva Premiership in England and Top 14 in France are ready to organise an alternative tournament to the Heineken Cup because they feel European rugby's premier club competition is weighted too heavily in favour of the Celtic nations.
Leinster and Munster have dominated the Heineken Cup in recent years, winning the trophy between them in five of the last seven seasons with Leinster champions three times in the last four tournaments.
Rivals in England and France believe the success of the Irish sides is largely because they are able to rest players regularly during the RaboDirect Pro 12 campaign as qualification for the following season's Heineken Cup is a virtual formality, something that is not the case in the Aviva Premiership and Top 14.
"Most of the Ireland squad will not be released for the Pro 12 until rounds three or four, something they could not do if they depended on their finishing position in the league for European qualification," said Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premiership Rugby. "The clubs in England and France have served two years' notice that we intend to pull out of Europe because there needs to be a level playing field.
"So far, the response from the other countries has been slow, even though we are not sabre-rattling. We have not been locked in talks and there is no meeting about the issue until the end of next month. Our view is that the qualification process needs to be changed so that it is entirely merit based – the top teams in all three leagues as well as the winners of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup should make up 20 sides taking part."
The English and French clubs want to ration the Pro 12 involvement to the top six teams in the league, which would run a risk of Scotland and Italy, whose teams currently qualify automatically, not being involved in a Heineken Cup campaign.
"I think those countries have effectively made that decision by forming the Pro 12," said McCafferty. "It is like me saying that the Premiership has to provide a qualifier from the south-west. It cannot be good for the competition that you do not have the best sides qualifying. Aironi were disbanded at the end of the last season and the newly formed Zebres go straight into the Heineken Cup.
"Are the Italian teams ready for the Heineken Cup given their record? It is all put into perspective when some really big names are not involved and the system plays a role in the way Leinster and Munster have dominated the competition in recent years. European Rugby Cup Ltd is dragging its heels and I cannot understand it."
McCafferty acknowledged that the two sides were approaching the problem from different directions. "Some 80% of our business is the Aviva Premiership," he went on. "It is what drives our revenue and gates.I understand the Pro 12 model is different, but we cannot damage our core competition for 20% [the Heineken Cup].ERC should know that we are serious and while the issue has to be resolved, everyone has to realise we cannot carry on as we are. If it is not, we would go to an Anglo-French competition and if others wanted to join us, fair enough.
"I feel for the Welsh regions because they are caught in the middle. They have financial issues and you cannot build a business on three home games. Ireland have a central system with the union funding everything apart from the overseas players. Wales are reliant on private money largely and they need a business with 15 home fixtures. I think changing the qualification for Europe would strengthen the RaboDirect."
ERC denied that it had been slow to respond. "We have held meetings with all our shareholders and asked them to draw up proposals which will be considered at next month's meeting. Notice was served by the French and English clubs and the French Rugby Federation at the beginning of June and it was agreed at a board meeting a few days afterwards was that we would have a workshop in September after holding briefings with everyone.
"We do not want to enter a war of words with Premiership Rugby, but we have been working away in the background and we are in the second phase of the consultation process."