Saints CEO Robson hails new European club rugby agreement
A two-year disagreement finally came to an end on Thursday night, with three new competitions formed for next season.
There will be a 20-team Rugby Champions Cup, which Saints will compete in, a European Rugby Challenge Cup and a Qualifying Competition.
The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will have 20 sides competing on a meritocratic basis, while the Qualifying Competition will see teams from a range of Tier 2 countries battle it out for the right to join the Challenge Cup and test themselves against more established outfits from France, England and the Celtic nations.
The tournaments will be run by newly-established Switzerland-based organisers, European Professional Club Rugby, with current Heineken Cup governing body European Rugby Cup disbanded at the end of the season.
“The news is a massive positive for club rugby across Europe,” said Robson, who had always remained confident that there would be some form of European competition next season.
“With four less teams and meritocratic qualification the quality and integrity of the European Rugby Champions Cup will increase, and we believe this will have many positive effects in a number of areas.
“Meanwhile the Qualifying Competition will give smaller countries the wherewithal to develop through meaningful cross-border club competition, which can only be good for the sport as a whole in the build-up to the next World Cup and beyond.
“Rugby cannot rest on its laurels if it wants to grow, and I’m sure that in a few years we’ll look back at this moment as the start of a new era for the sport.
“More importantly, it means that we can all look ahead to next season free from the uncertainty which has dogged the past few months.
“We know that we will be playing a minimum of 16 home matches in competitive tournaments, and that Franklin’s Gardens will play host to the best teams in Europe.”