Saints chief executive Robson urges clubs to seize power in European rugby row

HAVING HIS SAY - Saints chief executive Allan Robson (picture by Sharon Lucey)
HAVING HIS SAY - Saints chief executive Allan Robson (picture by Sharon Lucey)

Saints chief executive Allan Robson wants the clubs to grasp the power in the current European rugby row.

The English and French outfits want to set up a new tournament - the Rugby Champions Cup - to replace the Heineken Cup from the start of next season.

They gave notice last year of their intention to pull out of the current competition due to grievances with the qualification criteria and the distribution of funds.

The proposed new tournament would be open to teams from other countries, but the ERC is eager to stop the breakaway.

The ERC insists it is the only organisation that has the authority to organise European club cross-border competitions and has appointed a mediator, Canadian barrister Graham Mew, in a bid to resolve the row.

But Robson believes the ERC have procrastinated for long enough and says it is time for the clubs to take control.

“Over the past 20 years we, and in this I mean clubs on both sides of the channel, have built up considerable experience about how to run a successful club competition,” said Robson.

“The Aviva Premiership and Top 14 are both vibrant tournaments which attract strong crowds week in, week out, and have outstanding sponsorship and broadcast deals.

“We have shown that we know how to organise successful competitions in our own countries. We also believe that we can do the same on a European level, and create and manage a club competition which benefits all its participants – in other words, the clubs themselves.

“That said, we want to work with our unions, too, and we hope that the RFU will give its blessing to our solution for our current problems.

“A successful England team is dependent on having a competitive and strong club base, which develops and cares for top class players throughout the season.

“Meanwhile we, the clubs, need to be financially viable to maintain the investment required for this process.

“When we served our notice in June 2012 no one wanted this brinksmanship. But ERC have prevaricated and pontificated and tried to kick our proposals into the long grass. Nowhere is this more obvious than in their most recent meeting invitation, which was for October 23 – six weeks after the date the invitation was made.

“At the moment we still don’t have a competition for next season. We are therefore in the position where we are having to make things happen ourselves in order to ensure that we have the type of cross-border competition that our supporters, players and sponsors demand.”