Headway expected on new European Cup tournament

The current Heineken Cup trophy - set to be replaced by a new tournament?
The current Heineken Cup trophy - set to be replaced by a new tournament?

European rugby bosses are hopeful of signing a heads of agreement on the tournament to replace the Heineken Cup as early as this week.

The News Letter understands the six major European unions are close to agreement on the composition of the new cup, that will start next season.

The 20-team competition would see six Aviva Premiership teams, six Top 14 clubs and seven of the Pro12 sides qualify.

The final place would be taken by the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed finishers in the Premiership and the Top 14.

A new third-tier competition is expected to run in September, from which two qualifiers would then take part in the second-tier tournament, to replace the Amlin Challenge Cup.

The Six Nations committee were scheduled to meet in Paris on Monday, as they did last Wednesday, with all parties closing in on agreement.

Should Monday’s meeting yield progress, it is thought a heads of agreement legal document could then be quickly drawn up.

Only once that is signed can all parties then chase a resolution between broadcasters BT Sport and Sky.

A compromise TV rights deal between the two broadcasters would then be the final negotiating point.

European Rugby Cup, the governing body of the Heineken Cup, will be wound up in the summer.

A replacement body will be set up, with its name and the name of the new tournament yet to be finalised.

The Six Nations committee is expected to provide the basis of the new governing body, with some ERC staff retained.

It is expected however that the new European competition administration body will have fresh figureheads.

The Heineken Cup quarter-finals will be held on the weekend of April 5 and 6, and there now seems a consensus drive towards a European resolution ahead of those fixtures.