Dragons chief says new European Cup would boost regions

Wales prop Gethin Jenkins with the Heineken Cup

Newport Gwent Dragons chief Gareth Davies believes the proposed new European Cup will boost teams in Wales and throughout Europe.

The former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half, told Scrum V money will be more equally shared among the teams involved.

Davies, who has not been directly involved in talks, said: "I'm glad to say that we're just about there."

The new tournament would have seven teams from the Pro12 in place of 10.

Davies says the deal that is set to be ratified in the coming weeks could have been finalised in October, 2013.

But he welcomed the recent progress involving officials from Europe's leading nations and club competitions.

"A lot of progress has been made," said Dragons chief executive Davies, whose Welsh rivals are Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Scarlets.

"It's been well-publicised in the press a resolution has been found, not before time.

"All the clubs, all the regions - the whole game, has almost imploded over the last nine months.

"So I'm glad to say we're just about there in terms of what was put on the table back in October, but it's taken a few months to get there.

"We have to be positive now and look to continue a very vibrant European competition."

He added: "There's a fairer distribution [of money] - that's the important thing, and various formulas have been considered, discussed, thrashed around, which reflects greater meritocracy in distribution."

The future of the Heineken Cup has been in doubt since June 2012 when the top French and English clubs announced their intention to withdraw from the tournament at the end of the 2013-14 season.

They proposed their own competition, the Rugby Champions Cup (RCC) and said they were unhappy with the way teams qualified for the Heineken Cup and the distribution of cash generated by the tournament.

The English clubs, in particular, were dissatisfied with tournament organisers - European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC).

BT paid £152m for rights to broadcast English club rugby including their participation in a European tournament - just weeks before ERC announced a new deal with Sky to cover the Heineken Cup.

There is also an unresolved rift between the four Welsh regions and the Welsh Rugby Union - after the regions gave their support to the proposed breakaway RCC.

The terms of the agreement, thought to have been struck in Paris on 17 March, would make it much tougher for Welsh regions to qualify for the top-flight European competition in future.

The new tournament - if ratified - will involve 20 teams in place of the current 24, with the top six from the English and French leagues qualifying automatically.

There will be seven teams from the Pro12, with one guaranteed representative from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales with the other three places being decided on league position.

The 20th place in the tournament is likely to be decided by a two-leg play-off between the clubs that finish seventh in England and France.

Under the current qualifying arrangements two teams in Italy and Scotland have automatic entry to the Heineken Cup with 10 teams in total qualifying from the Pro12.

That has led to criticism it is too easy to qualify from the Pro12, with teams able to rest key players for league matches ahead of big European games.

A second-tier tournament involving 20 teams to replace the Amlin Cup is also expected to be announced.

And a third-level competition involving teams from emerging nations such as Georgia, Spain, Portugal and Russia could also be established.