Heineken Cup: Rugby Champions Cup name for proposed successor

Heineken Cup

The proposed replacement for the Heineken Cup will be called the Rugby Champions Cup, English and French clubs have announced.

They will quit the Heineken Cup at the end of this season because they object to the current set-up for a number of reasons.

The issues include qualification and the way revenue is shared.

A Premiership Rugby statement said: "The competition will be based on the principles of qualification on merit."

Premier Rugby added the new tournament will have "a strong competition format, equality between the leagues, higher commercial values for the teams and expansion into new European markets".

A statement concluded: "The Top 14 and Premiership Rugby clubs have already confirmed their participation in the new competition and a joint working group has been created to prepare all necessary elements in good time for the 2014-15 season."

The International Rugby Board said it will only back the new pan-European club idea if the French and English unions approve it.

Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith told BBC Radio 5 live he does not expect them to stand in the clubs' way.

"They are probably sitting on the fence at the moment and keeping an eye on what's happening," he said. "I can't see any reason why the unions wouldn't agree to, approve and support the initiative."

According to Smith, the English and French clubs have had "extremely positive responses" from other clubs and unions about joining the new competition, and he will be "astonished" if there is not a big take-up.

"We are moving at a very good pace," he added. "The name demonstrates there is something real that we have created. This isn't living in a world of concepts anymore.

"We have put a stake in the ground and said: 'We are here and moving forward from here'. There is no purpose in continuing to play with one's food, eventually you have to eat."

Smith reiterated that the English and French clubs will not be involved in any competition operating under the auspices of European Rugby Cup (ERC) next season, despite ERC scheduling further talks - mediated by barrister Graeme Mew - on 23 October as they seek an agreement.

However, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) subsequently released a strongly-worded statement giving its backing to ERC.

"No meeting or international competition involving French clubs can be organised outside the framework of the FFR and without its prior agreement," it read.

"The FFR has always been and will remain a major player in the European cups organised by ERC and backs proposals to permit the continuity and development of these."

The Aviva Premiership and Top 14 clubs believe the current Heineken Cup structure favours teams from the RaboDirect Pro12, which is made up of sides from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy, who will be allowed to join the potential new tournament.

Only the top six in England and France are guaranteed a place in the Heineken Cup, whereas at least 10 Celtic League outfits - including both Scottish, both Italian and a minimum of three sides each from Wales and Ireland - have certain entry into the competition.

With the Pro12 having no relegation, it is argued teams can rest players for league matches to keep them fresh for Europe, while Premiership and Top 14 teams have to fight hard just to qualify.

The English and French clubs are also unhappy with the way revenues are split between the three leagues and want to keep a greater share.