English clubs prepare to quit Heineken Cup

ERC cheied executive, Derek McGrath (Getty Images)
ERC cheied executive, Derek McGrath (Getty Images)
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Edinburgh Rugby are today facing the prospect of playing their last-ever Heineken European Cup tie at Murrayfield against English opposition when Gloucester visit on Sunday.

This follows a decision by the 12 Aviva Premiership clubs to pull out of next year’s tournament in a dispute over whether it is they or the governing bodies’ organisation (ERC) that has control.

While it is undoubtedly the case that an English withdrawal will enhance the chances of Celtic success – Ulster’s victory in 1999 came during the last English boycott – there will be financial implications to consider for those left behind.

Without the English, the tournament’s commercial appeal will take a hit.

Following a crunch meeting, the English clubs have come out fighting, a spokesman insisting: “The English clubs are now pursuing other options.”

These options are believed to include a tournament involving Southern Hemisphere opposition while there is continued speculation about the possibility of an Anglo-Welsh League. Without the Welsh, the PRO 12 would be badly affected and, intriguingly, Scottish Rugby has just announced plans for a domestic semi-professional league based on eight traditional clubs starting in 2015-16.