sport

European rugby deal agreed

An agreement for a new tournament to replace the existing European Cup structure has been signed by the various rugby union governing bodies in Europe.

The nine stakeholders have agreed to introduce the European Rugby Champions Cup in place of the Heineken Cup from the 2014/15 season.

The European Rugby Champions Cup will be one of three cross-border competitions and it will be joined by the European Rugby Challenge Cup and a new competition called the Qualifying Competition.

A new association will also be established in Switzerland called European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) and this body will be responsible for organising and managing the cup competitions.

Sky and BT have also reached an agreement in principle concerning arrangements for the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup competitions, both of which would be broadcast jointly by Sky Sports and BT Sport.

The pool matches would be shared equally, while both would show two quarter-finals each, one semi-final each and the final would be broadcast by both live under a four-year agreement which is subject to contract.

Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said: "This is a good day for rugby. The agreement offers clarity for European rugby and enables the clubs to plan for the future.

"With these new competitions, we're delighted our viewers can look forward to even more top-class European coverage across our platforms."

Simon Green, director of BT Sport said: "It is fantastic news for rugby fans that we have reached a deal with Sky Sports.

"The game of rugby had to come first and both companies have recognised that by showing a high degree of maturity and flexibility."