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    Doom & gloom for the HEC

    Fears over future of Heineken Cup

    By Mick Cleary
    Last Updated: 2:41am GMT 24/01/2007

    Semi-final draw

    Comment on this story Read comments

    Audio: Brennan apology falls short
    Blog: Mick Cleary

    There was a sense of weary resignation among European Cup organisers yesterday when it emerged that they could not guarantee that next year's tournament would go ahead, never mind in a reduced capacity without the French clubs.

    The prospect of a boycott hung heavy over the semi-final draw, held at Twickenham, which hosts the 12th Heineken Cup final on Sunday May 20. The Ligue Nationale de Rugby have objected to the cramped domestic fixture list – exacerbated by the Rugby World Cup being held in France, and the on-going skirmishes between Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union.

    @@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;">"For the moment I cannot tell you that everyone will agree to continue next year,"@@@@/SPAN> Jean-Pierre Lux, the chairman of the European Rugby Cup, said.@@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;"> "I cannot be confident for the moment about anything. If we stop for one year, the confidence between ERC and its commercial partners will be lost.@@@@/SPAN> It has been agreed the French federation will give a 48 per cent share to French clubs, and Serge [Blanco, chairman of the French clubs] would like to see the same to happen in England. French and English clubs do not want to take the power from ERC, but do want to have proper power."

    Derek McGrath, chief executive of the ERC, hopes to salvage the prestigious tournament in the light of the boycott announced by Blanco last week.@@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;"> "We are taking every possible action to ensure we have not only a tournament next year, but also a fully representative one. Our objective is to make sure that it continues," he said.@@@@/SPAN>
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    Officials also expressed grave reservations about the likely preference of clubs seeded at home in the quarter-finals to opt to play their game at their own stadiums, rather than moving to a nearby venue with greater capacity.

    Leicester, who face Stade Francais, and Wasps who play Leinster, look set to play at Welford Road (capacity 16,000) and Adams Park (10,000).

    Llanelli have decided to take on Munster at Stradey Park (10,800) rather than give up outright home advantage by moving to the Liberty Stadium (20,280) in Swansea.

    It is impossible to question the pure sporting motives that underpin these decisions, but there is little doubt the ERC would have preferred the greater commercial yield that would come from playing at larger stadiums. The clubs turned down even the financial rewards from an ERC incentive scheme. Clubs that switch would receive 65 per cent of the bigger gate, rather than the present 50 per cent share.

    @@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;">"We are disappointed there has been no desire to move to bigger stadiums," McGrath said. "There is pressure to produce a competition that is delivering commercially; this would have been an opportunity to do that. This tournament ought to be about not just taking risks on the field, but off it, too."@@@@/SPAN>

    The permutations of the semi-final draw are complex. Austin Healey, the former Leicester back who conducted the draw alongside Lux, will have received thanks from his pals back at Welford Road for giving them the incentive of facing the winners of Llanelli and Munster on home territory – probably the Walkers Stadium. The venues have to be neutral, but are located in the country of the side drawn first.

    Similarly, if Biarritz were to beat Northampton for the third time in this season's competition, they would probably face the winners of Wasps against Leinster across the Spanish border in San Sebastian.

    Meanwhile, Sale's injury woes have deepened after Lionel Faure, their French prop, was ruled out f

    #2


    Interesting point about the QF attendances... I did a quick check and previous years QF attendances were:


    04/05 162,500


    05/06 150,815


    06/07 68,800 - and this assumes that BO play in San Sebastian and they might not be able to do that as Real Sociedad are playing at home that weekend.

    Comment


      #3
      It's gas that you have Wasps, Llanelli and Leicester giving out about the amount of money that the HC is generating, and they all refused the chance to move to a bigger stadium !!! [img]smileys/confused.gif[/img]

      Comment


        #4


        Originally posted by Point
        It's gas that you have Wasps, Llanelli and Leicester giving out about the amount of money that the HC is generating, and they all refused the chance to move to a bigger stadium !!! [img]smileys/confused.gif[/img]

        Would you willfully give away an absolute home advantage ? IMHO I think they have made the right decision.


        As for ERC - [img]smileys/lol.gif[/img]
        "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too ?" - Douglas Adams

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by jmccoy


          Originally posted by Point
          It's gas that you have Wasps, Llanelli and Leicester giving out about the amount of money that the HC is generating, and they all refused the chance to move to a bigger stadium !!! [img]smileys/confused.gif[/img]

          Would you willfully give away an absolute home advantage ? IMHO I think they have made the right decision.


          As for ERC - [img]smileys/lol.gif[/img]


          All very well not giving up home advantage but the same lot will be moaning like hell about not making enough money out of the HEC.

          Comment


            #6
            I love the HEC. Best club competition in world by a country mile
            but I think it could be improved on. I'd like to see 4 groups of
            5 rather than 6 groups of 4 with top 2 of each group qualifying for the
            Qtrs . It would mean 4 less teams but I believe that the likes of
            the Borders, Bourgoin, Northampton & the Italian teams (at the
            moment) have no place in the tournament. OK it would mean a
            couple more games a season but it would be worth it. TBH the top 14, ML
            & GP are boring compared to it. I'd like to see an improved ECC run
            on the same format as the HEC with the winners automatically qualifying
            for the HEC the following year.



            The semi "neutral" issue could be solved by granting the "away" team
            1st choice on venue in "home" country from those available. For example
            Munster drawn away to Biarritz would choose Paris as it would be
            easiest from fan travelling etc point of view. the present system is
            deeply unfair especially with the deeply suspicous way the big French
            teams get home draws.
            Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again (like picking Gordon D'Arcy) and expecting different results.
            Albert Einstein

            Comment


              #7

              Originally posted by Mcork
              I love the HEC. Best club competition in world by a country mile
              but I think it could be improved on. I'd like to see 4 groups of
              5 rather than 6 groups of 4 with top 2 of each group qualifying for the
              Qtrs . It would mean 4 less teams but I believe that the likes of
              the Borders, Bourgoin, @@@@SPAN style="font-weight: bold;">Northampton@@@@/SPAN> & the Italian teams (at the
              moment) have no place in the tournament. OK it would mean a
              couple more games a season but it would be worth it. TBH the top 14, ML
              & GP are boring compared to it. I'd like to see an improved ECC run
              on the same format as the HEC with the winners automatically qualifying
              for the HEC the following year.



              The semi "neutral" issue could be solved by granting the "away" team
              1st choice on venue in "home" country from those available. For example
              Munster drawn away to Biarritz would choose Paris as it would be
              easiest from fan travelling etc point of view. the present system is
              deeply unfair especially with the deeply suspicous way the big French
              teams get home draws.
              Did you mean to include them?
              Grandpa Simpson: The last time the meteors came, we thought the sky was on fire. Naturally, we blamed the Irish. We hanged more \'n a few.

              Comment


                #8

                Yes they're rubbish. They beat Parma & Borders to qualify.


                Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again (like picking Gordon D'Arcy) and expecting different results.
                Albert Einstein

                Comment

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