The format for the new 'European Rugby Champions Cup' has been agreed upon and signed by the six national rugby unions, the representatives of the Welsh regions, the English Premiership clubs and the Top 14.
The new format will see the top 6 from the English and French leagues gain automatic entry, along with the top 7 from the Pro12 (with a provision whereby at least one club from each country gets in). The 20th and final club will be, for the 2014/15 season, the winner of the playoff between the 7th placed side in the Aviva Premiership and the Top 14. For subsequent seasons, the final place will be taken by the winner of a four way playoff involving the 7th placed teams in England and France and the 8th and 9th placed sides in the Pro12.
Sky Sports and BT Sport have also agreed "in principle" to split their coverage of the event right down the middle, with each station getting an equal amount of games exclusively, with both sharing coverage of the final (BT Sport will enjoy first pick of games involving English clubs).
The announcement from European Rugby was released today.
3 cross border club competitions to be called The European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new competition called the Qualifying Competition.
An association shall be established in Switzerland called 'European Professional Club Rugby' (EPCR). This body will be responsible for organising and managing the Cup Competitions.
European Rugby Champions Cup qualification:
20 clubs qualifying through the finishing positions in their leagues from the preceding season:
- Top 6 from TOP 14
- Top 6 from Premiership Rugby
- Top 7 from PRO 12, with at least one club from each country participating in the league
- The 20th place will be taken by the winner of a play off between:
For the 1st season: The 7th highest finishing club from TOP 14 and the 7th highest finishing club from Premiership Rugby. This play off will be played in May 2014, either as one match (in which case, there will be a draw for home advantage) or as home/away.
For subsequent seasons: The 7th highest finishing club from TOP 14, the 7th highest finishing club from Premiership Rugby and the 8th and 9th highest finishing clubs from PRO 12 (or the 2 highest finishing which have not already qualified automatically).
From 2015 season, if the previous season's European Rugby Challenge Cup winner has not already qualified through its finishing position in its league, it will participate in the play off by taking a place given to its league.
The nine parties who signed the agreement are:
Federation Francaise de Rugby (FFR), Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Ligue Nationale De Rugby (LNR), Premiership Rugby Ltd (PRL), Regional Rugby Wales Ltd (RRW), The Rugby Football Union (RFU), Scottish Rugby Union PLC (SRU) and The Welsh Rugby Union Ltd (WRU).
Meanwhile, Sky Sports and BT Sport have agreed "in principle" to share the rights to next year's European Rugby Champions Cup.
Of the 70 matches to be broadcast, Sky will screen 35 and BT will show 35. The stations will each get exclusive coverage of two quarter finals, one semi-final and they will share coverage of the final.
Crucially, BT Sport will get first pick of games involving English clubs.
BT/Sky: two Qfs, one SF each and both show the final. 70 European matches, 35 by each broadcaster. BT get first pick with English clubs.
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 10, 2014
Heineken Cup broadcast deal looks awfully like defeat 4 Sky. Loss of exclusive rights, BT get dibs on ties involving lucrative english clubs
— Peter Flanagan (@pfmflan) April 10, 2014