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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Heineken Cup boycott threat ended
Heineken Cup
Next year's Heineken Cup will go ahead with the top-flight English and French teams involved after a settlement was reached at Twickenham on Sunday.

The clubs had threatened to boycott the event over a row with England's Rugby Football Union over shareholding and voting rights in the competition.

"I am delighted we have some good news," said Derek McGrath, chief executive of European Rugby Cup.

"We've agreed that the English and French clubs will be participating."

McGrath told BBC Five Live that the finer details of the deal had yet to be finalised but insisted that there was "more than a verbal agreement" in place over the long-term future of the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup.

The future of this is important to world rugby, not just European rugby

Derek McGrath, chief executive of European Rugby Cup

"We have confirmation from all the parties. We're now in the position to say that it is confirmed that the tournament will go ahead next year," he said.

"The longer term future of the tournament is down to the details of the document.

"The major issues were not about Europe. Everybody wanted this tournament to grow bigger and bigger. The issues within each country are not for us to comment on.

"This is not about concession, this is about everybody realising this is a magnificent product.

"The future of this is important to world rugby, not just European rugby."

Today a new era has begun

Serge Blanco

The landmark meeting involved McGrath, Serge Blanco, president of France's Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), RFU boss Martyn Thomas, Premier Rugby chief Tom Walkinshaw, IRB president Syd Millar and Jean-Pierre Lux, president of tournament organisers ERC.

"It's not only for the good of French clubs, it's above all good for rugby in its entirety," said Blanco.

"It will allow us to advance, to have another vision of the future. Today a new era has begun.

"All that we asked for has been accepted."

The dispute centred on English Premiership clubs wanting the RFU to grant them a 50% shareholding in the Heineken Cup.

They claimed the RFU had gone back on a deal struck last October but the RFU denied an agreement over the release of international players involved commercial rights in Europe and pulled out.

French clubs were angry that the English clubs would not be given rights, and were also concerned about fixture congestion in World Cup year, and called a boycott of next year's European competitions.

They were subsequently joined by the Premiership clubs, who were separately in dispute with the RFU over player-release for internationals.

Thomas, the RFU management board chairman, said: "We are delighted that the Guinness Premiership clubs will be participating in the European competitions next season.

"This is excellent news for the players, spectators, sponsors and broadcasters.

"We will continue our discussions with Premier Rugby Ltd next week to find a long-term and lasting solution to the issues affecting the English game."

Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty added: "This is good news for the tournament, our supporters and the club game."

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