What you need to know about the European Rugby Champions Cup

What you need to know about the European Rugby Champions Cup

AFTER nearly two years of conflict, the future of European club rugby has been solved with the announcement of the European Rugby Champions Cup.

The new tournament will replace the Heineken Cup, previously the premier competition in European club rugby.

The Amlin Cup will be replaced by the European Rugby Challenge Cup and there will be a new tournament, the Qualifying Competition.

London Irish winger Topsy Ojo said of the announcement: “I’ve had some of my best times in European matches. You want to test yourselves against the best, not just at home but across Europe. It’s great to sort it out but it’s been a long time coming.”

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne added he was "absolutely happy" with the deal.

"There will be a financial distribution on a per club basis within the Pro12 due course when the revenues get to a certain level, and that is an advantage for us as we field four teams," he said.

When will it start?

The new tournaments will start in the 2014-15 season and a deal has been signed that will see them last for at least eight seasons.

How many teams will be participating?

20 teams will take part in the European Rugby Champions Cup. The top six from England's Premiership and the French Top 14 will be joined by the top seven teams from the Pro12, with at least one team qualifying from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The final place will be decided by a playoff between the next best team from each of the leagues.

The remaining teams from the Premiership, Top 14 and Pro12 will make up the European Rugby Challenge Cup along with the winners of the previous year's Qualification Competition.

What is the format?

Both tournaments will start with five pools of four teams, with sides playing each other home and away. The five pool winners and the three best runners-up will qualify for the quarter-finals, with the four best pool winners enjoying home advantage.

Who is running the competitions?

The tournaments will be governed by a new body, European Professional Club Rugby.  The six unions plus club organisations from England, France and Wales will be represented on the board of directors. Commercial decisions will be made by a five-strong executive committee made up of representatives from the three leagues, the EPCR director-general and an independent chairman.

What are the reasons behind the new competitions?

Clubs in England and France were growing increasingly frustrated with how teams from the Pro12 were qualifying for the Heineken Cup. Italy, for example, always had two competitors in the tournament despite both finishing near the bottom of the Pro12. In 2012, club organisations in England and France announced their intention to withdraw from the current system and form their own tournament.

Money may also be a factor. When clubs from England and France announced their initial plans for a new tournament, they speculated turnover from advertising could top £100m within five years.