PARIS (Reuters) – Club rugby’s top organizing body is exploring holding a Club World Cup after French federation president Bernard Laporte proposed a radical new competition to replace the existing European Champions Cup.
However, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said the new competition would complement the existing continental competitions and not replace them.
“Discussions have already taken place on an official level between EPCR and its shareholders regarding a global club tournament which could complement the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and which could take place once every four years,” said the organization’s statement.
“Work on possible formats is ongoing with a collaborative approach and issues of player welfare to the fore.
The EPCR also appeared to criticize Laporte for discussing the plans while the world fights to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has caused all major sporting events across the globe to be canceled or postponed.
“EPCR does not believe it appropriate to highlight such discussions while the public health crisis due to COVID-19 continues,” added the statement.
“Currently, the organization’s focus is on attempting to reschedule the knockout stages of the 2019/20 tournaments subject to government and local authority directives.”
Laporte, who is looking to be elected World Rugby vice-chairman in the governing body’s vote next month, proposed a Club World Cup to replace the current competitions in a bid to increase club revenues that have taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said he has had the idea in the works along with World Rugby’s chairman Bill Beaumont.
“This crisis must push us to be innovative. Let’s make this new competition, I’m sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow,” Laporte was quoted as saying by French newspaper Midi Olympique.
Laporte said that he had also spoken to Beaumont about changing the sport’s calendar to create “a new window” for clubs to make way for the new tournament, details of which would be sent out to federations this week.
The Champions Cup, run by EPCR, generally runs from October to May every year and involves clubs from unions that compete in the Six Nations — England, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.
“The European competition is magnificent. With Toulon I was able to lift the trophy three times (as head coach) and I know what it can represent,” Laporte added.
“But let’s be frank, it doesn’t generate enough income. If we want to develop this Club World Cup, we have to find dates. Without the Champions Cup, nine weekends are available.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)