Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has confirmed that his organisation intend to cut their ties with European Rugby Cup Ltd (ERC) unless they agree to an overhaul of the Heineken Cup.
Reports earlier this month suggested that the Aviva Premiership clubs and their French counterparts from the Top 14 had served two-year notice to ERC to leave the accord that governs both the Heineken Cup and the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup competitions with the aim of forcing their continental partners to initiate a re-vamp of the European rugby landscape.
It is understood that neither Premiership Rugby nor the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) would like to reduce the number of clubs in the Heineken Cup from 24 to 20 with the top six from their leagues and the RaboDirect PRO12 plus the defending champions and the Amlin Challenge Cup winners qualifying for the competition.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the remaining 18 clubs would play in the Challenge Cup, with the remaining two places in the second-tier competition filled by two clubs qualifying from a proposed third-tier competition, which would embrace countries such as Spain, Russia, Georgia andPortugal.
In a statement released earlier today, Premiership Rugby said: "Following recent media interest, Premiership Rugby confirms that it has given notice, effective 1st June 2012, under the terms of the European Rugby Cup (ERC) Accord and understands that notice has also been served by other parties to the Accord. Such notice period expires at the end of the 2013/2014 tournament at which time, therefore, the Accord will terminate."
McCafferty also reiterated their hope that a new agreement regarding the future structure of the competition could be signed off in the coming months. "We hope that there will now be an urgent dialogue about the future of European cup rugby, including qualification, competition formats and ambition to expand into new markets," he said.
However, they are likely to face fierce resistance from the PRO12 clubs who stand to lose most under the proposals. If the changes were adopted next season, no Italian side would grace the Heineken Cup and Edinburgh, semi-finalists this term, would not qualify having finished 11th in the PRO12 table.
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