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Rugby | Heineken Cup

Jean-Pierre Lux © Reuters

Stakeholders fail to agree reform of European game



The latest attempt to reform the structure of European club rugby ended in stalemate on Wednesday, with the various stakeholders unable to agree on a new format for the Heineken Cup.

Four meetings have now been held since English and French clubs gave notice in June that they would not sign up to compete after 2014 unless changes were made.

The English and French clubs favour trimming the Heineken Cup, the continent's leading club competition, to 20 teams from 24. They also want to limit the number of qualifiers from the RaboDirect Pro12 competition, a league which features teams from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Jean-Pierre Lux, chairman of tournament organiser European Rugby Cup (ERC), indicated a growing sense of frustration after talks involving representatives from leagues and national rugby federations.

"After four meetings, it is extremely disappointing for all involved that we have not yet made sufficient progress towards a new Accord," said Lux in a statement.

"Everyone around the table remains committed to making European club rugby stronger and we are confident a solution will be found," he added.

The ERC board will meet on February 6 to review the situation but no date has been set for another stakeholder meeting.

British pay TV operators BSkyB and BT are caught up in the dispute. BSkyB has agreed a four-year deal with the ERC to screen European club competitions from 2014, but rival BT has a separate agreement to broadcast matches involving English clubs competing in Europe.

Adding to the commercial complications, brewer Heineken's sponsorship agreement expires at the end of the current season.

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