EPCR, the tournament organisers of the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, have insisted that discussions about the possibility of introducing a new global club competition are focussed on ‘complementing’ the existing European tournaments – rather than replacing them as has been claimed by French powerbroker Bernard Laporte.
A statement issued last night by EPCR said –
EPCR has noted today’s media reports regarding a proposal for an annual Club World Cup.
Discussions have already taken place on an official level between EPCR and its shareholders regarding a global club tournament which could complement the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and which could take place once every four years. Work on possible formats is ongoing with a collaborative approach and issues of player welfare to the fore.
EPCR does not believe it appropriate to highlight such discussions while the public health crisis due to COVID-19 continues, and currently, the organisation’s focus is on attempting to reschedule the knockout stages of the 2019-20 tournaments subject to government and local authority directives.
This came in response to comments made by French Federation president Laporte, who is set to be installed a World Rugby vice-chairman next month, who claimed that the European Champions Cup would be cancelled to accommodate the new competition, which he believes would be more lucrative at a time when clubs and unions are feeling the financial hit of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been reported that World Rugby believe that a global competition is a way to better realign the international calendars in the north and south hemispheres, with the hope of creating a new-look Test tournament along the lines of their Nations Championship proposal (a 12-team international competition promising a £6 billion investment over the course of a 12-year television deal), which fell flat last year when the Six Nations countries couldn’t agree unanimously on the introduction of promotion and relegation.
The Six Nations has since entered into discussions over a lucrative deal with CVC but the coronavirus pandemic crisis has changed the whole sporting and commercial landscape, creating this suggestion that a plan for an annual international tournament involving both hemispheres could come back on to the table.
“This crisis must push us to be innovative,” Laporte told Midi Olympique. “Let’s make this new competition, I’m sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow.”
“I’ve been working with Bill Beaumont [current World Rugby Chairman] on the restructuring of the international calendar in order to standardise the windows reserved for national teams.
“And, in fact, create a new window dedicated to clubs, which would allow the creation of a new international competition: the Club World Cup.
“The European competition is magnificent. With Toulon I was able to lift the trophy three times (as head coach) and I know what it can represent.
“But let’s be frank, it doesn’t generate enough income. If we want to develop this Club World Cup, we have to find dates. Without the Champions Cup, nine weekends are available.
“I am sure of one thing: we must create this competition and very quickly. It could be a breath of fresh air for the whole of world rugby.”