Nearly two years of wrangling and negotiation will come to an end this week with the announcement of the successor to the Heineken Cup, an elite competition which is likely to be called the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Heads of agreement - the principles of the deal - are likely to be signed on Wednesday, with an announcement of the competition expected the next day.

It had been hoped that final agreement would have been made at the end of last week, but the finer details, especially the division of revenue among the RaboDirect Pro12 teams, have taken longer than expected.

Crucially, agreement between the rival broadcasters, Sky and BT, appears to have been reached on the key issue of screening games involving English clubs, where more viewers are guaranteed.


It appears that it will be done using a 'pick deal' similar to that used in English Premier League soccer, although sources have indicated that BT, who now cover the Aviva Premiership and signed a deal with the English and French clubs for their proposed Rugby Champions Cup, will show more English games than Sky, who have agreed to cover the RaboDirect Pro12 (or whatever it is called under a new sponsor) next season.

On Wednesday a meeting will be held in Dublin of the shareholders of European Rugby Cup Limited, and on Thursday a board meeting. With the television deal hopefully completed by then, it is likely that ERC will release money owed to clubs for participating in this year's competition. ERC had been withholding the money for fear of litigation from Sky.

The new competition will be run by a new company based in Switzerland.

The 17 ERC staff based in Dublin have still had no official or unofficial word about their futures.

Money will be split equally among the Aviva Premiership, the French Top 14 and the RaboDirect Pro12. The elite competition will comprise 20 teams, six each from the Aviva and the Top 14, and seven from the RaboDirect Pro12, including the top team from each of the four countries (Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy).