English clubs hold showdown talks to demand rethink on European competition pay chasm
21:30 GMT, 17 September 2012
England's leading clubs will go into showdown talks in Dublin on Tuesday demanding a fairer deal from the European competition cash.
Sportsmail can reveal that a gap of 1.75million between the Heineken Cup money handed to English clubs compared to the four Irish regions is the reason behind their determination to change the landscape of European rugby.
Representatives of Premiership Rugby will meet the other European stakeholders for a meeting that is supposed to be an attempt to find a peace formula but could just as easily increase the fallout between England and clubs from France, Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Not a level playing field: clubs such as European champions Leinster are quids in
It follows the announcement last week of a new 152m TV rights deal with BT Vision for Premiership rugby that also included a new European competition – an agreement which was subsequently ruled to be contrary to RFU rules.
But the Premiership representatives believe they have a strong moral case to force through change and that when others see the figures they will fall in line.
The sums expose the sheer scale of the financial inequality that has driven the organisation representing the English elite to make such an aggressive move.
Under the current European Rugby Cup accord governing tournaments, it is understood that the 12 Premiership clubs each receive an annual payment of less than 650,000, incorporating sponsorship and TV rights money.
In comparison, it is thought that the four Irish provincial sides are given a handout of close to 2.4million.
The equation is similarly imbalanced in favour of Wales and Scotland. They and the Irish teams enjoy the luxury of all-but-certain qualification for the high-profile Heineken Cup, rather than the secondary Amlin Challenge Cup.
Inequality: It is understood that the four Irish provincial sides receive far more than their English counterparts
In turn, the relatively low intensity of the Pro12 league has allowed the Irish provinces, in particular, to prioritise their European campaigns.
That has been a significant factor in the dominance of Europe's blue-riband event by Munster and Leinster, who have claimed five titles between them in the past seven years.
Their sustained success brings even greater reward as each side contesting a knockout fixture earns an extra 290,000 to contribute to the national 'pot'.
What infuriates the English and French is that they are the economic powerhouses of the continental game, with far greater financial and broadcasting clout than their Celtic rivals, yet they receive far less per team from ERC in return.
Showdown: The talks have been scheduled in the wake of the announced TV deal with BT Vision
There are unlikely to be any resolutions on Tuesday, with the rival factions so entrenched.
While PRL hope they can secure eventual support for their concept of three tiers of European competition, with a 20-team Heineken Cup featuring the holders, the Challenge Cup champions and the top six sides from each of the Premiership, the Pro12 and the Top 14, the stance of the French is critical.
ERC are adamant that the Gallic clubs will preserve the status quo in return for an earlier final in April of each year, but PRL also believe they have the backing of the French.
One leading official even claimed that officials from Ligue Nationale de Rugby have 'signed' an agreement to stage an Anglo-French event as a final option.
However, that notion of an entente cordiale was being questioned in other quarters on Monday.
Rugby World Cup organisers have marked the three-year countdown to the home tournament by predicting record ticket sales and a profit in excess of 100m.
But Andy Cosslett, the chairman of England Rugby 2015, acknowledged the need to generate fresh interest in the north as a crucial factor in the success or failure of the overall plans.
'Taking rugby union outside the traditional strongholds is a priority for us,' he said.