Welsh clubs back Anglo-French breakaway
Paul Goze speaks on the phone in Perpignan on November 22, 2012
"Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) on behalf of the four Welsh Regions (Cardiff, Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons and Scarlets) confirms its full support for the proposed new Rugby Champions Cup (RRC) Competitions," said a statement issued Tuesday by the umbrella group.
"Whilst there remain elements of detail to be confirmed,it is now clear that there are a number of significant advantages to the new competitions in equality of governance, format, qualification and distribution across the individual participating clubs.
"Consequently, RRW looks forward to working with the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) to support their efforts and positive engagement in striving to ensure our teams are involved in strong, valuable European Clubs Competitions in time for next season."
Tuesday's announcement by RRW came on the eve of a stakeholder meeting of current tournament organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) -- a meeting both English and French clubs have long said they'll boycott.
Last month, having given some 15 months' notice of their intention to quit the existing tournament structure when the agreement governing the European Cup runs out at the end of the season, Anglo-French clubs, frustrated by what they saw as a lack of movement by ERC, launched their plan for a breakaway event.
Paul Goze, head of the French clubs governing body the National Rugby League (LNR), told AFP on Tuesday that the first draft of the RCC project would be unveiled "in early November".
English and French clubs have long complained that Celtic League teams have an unfair advantage in European competition as most of them are guaranteed entry, whereas Premiership and Top 14 teams have to fight hard just to qualify.
Only the top six in England and France are guaranteed a place in the European Cup, whereas at least 10 Celtic League sides -- including both Scottish, both Italians and a minimum of three each from Wales and Ireland -- have a free pass into the competition.
So far the French Rugby Federation (FFR) have warned their clubs against participation while England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) has kept its powder dry in the hope a compromise agreement might emerge.
Last month the deputy chairman of England's Premiership Rugby said Celtic League clubs faced "financial oblivion" if they don't join the Rugby Champions Cup.
Bruce Craig estimated some Celtic League sides receive up to £3 million ($5million, 3.56 million euros), for competing in the existing European Cup.
By contrast, Craig said English clubs received some £800,000 annually for their European Cup participation.
"The amounts of money that is generated in the English and French games through our domestic leagues accounts for approximately 80 percent of our revenues, so the implication of not playing in a European Cup is much less serious for French and English clubs as it is for the Celtic nations," said Craig.
"The reality of it is that if the Rugby Champions Cup doesn't happen, then the Celts will not be playing in a competition and they won't have those distributions from that competition."
But last month also saw ERC chief executive Derek McGrath say the Premiership's desire for a breakaway event was motivated by a desire to protect a television deal.
Premiership Rugby have signed a broadcast agreement with BT Vision worth £152million, with £52million of that earmarked for European competitions.
But ERC insist they will stand by current broadcast partners Sky, with a contract agreed until 2018.
"It (the breakaway) is not about performance or the competitions, it's about winding down the company with the expectation that the Sky deal would fall away with it...ERC will not walk away from Sky," McGrath said.
The WRU, Irish Rugby Union and Scottish Rugby Union have stated they will not allow their clubs to take part in any European competition without the approval of the International Rugby Board.