EPCR and World Rugby appear on collision course over World Club Cup plan

French powerbroker Bernard Laporte believes new tournament could be the salvation of rugby in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis

French federation President Bernard Laporte in discussion with Princess Anne ahead of Scotland's Six Nations clash against France last month. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON
French federation President Bernard Laporte in discussion with Princess Anne ahead of Scotland's Six Nations clash against France last month. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

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.”


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1936 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. They did this in rugby league a few years back and it didnt last long. It’s not good for the players welfare and theres the carbon footprint to think of.
    How about an intercontinental cup game between the Ec winners and the Super rugby champions on an annual basis? Could maybe play it in neutral venue in areas where they’re trying to get rugby more exposure

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  2. Its a ridiculous suggestion to think a club world cup competition would work. This is not football. The level of recovery, rehab and general acclimatisation for rugby players is just so biologically different, that it will stretch players to the limits that are beyond proper recovery.

    Never mind the current drive to put televised rugby behind a pay wall.

    Its greed that is driving this….nothing else. That and the politics of stuffy old men in the unions. It needs fans involvement…if you truly want to transform the game you need to ask the fans what they want.

    They are the customers.

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  3. How is aligning with a dying competition meant to improve anything? Super Rugby is dying on its arse. The Heineken is vibrant and compelling. Only a fool like Laporte wouldn’t see that. The EPCR response is spot on. Tony

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  4. It is nothing more or less than little power struggles as to who controls the money – as is seen from the quote in the article “But let’s be frank, it doesn’t generate enough income”.
    Then the EPCR regarding the same old turgid comment about ‘player welfare’ comes out of the bag, again and in reality only means if that stops some other organisation getting hold of the Advertising, Merchandising and Ticket sales its done its job. Then the other mob come out with Covid has given us a chance to restructure this and that, and on and on.
    With CVC around the corner and the SRU track record of competent decisions: it’s a hard time for Cynics.

  5. Loads of people looking for Murrayfield to invest in a third pro team.

    This is the sort of proposal that might mean we need to put all our pro rugby eggs into one basket.

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