The House of Payne - It's hard to comprehend that Quins may not be in the Heineken Cup next season
The Stoop hosts the Sky TV cameras this Sunday for Harlequins’ return Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro.
Having convincingly won 32-8 in Nantes last weekend, a similar result would keep Quins in contention for a place in the quarter-finals.
It is hard to comprehend, given the Champions League-style excitement that the Heineken Cup has produced, Quins may not be able to play in next season’s competition.
Not because they won’t qualify – Conor O’Shea’s side will be looking for a fourth successive win in all competitions against the French side – but because English clubs have said they will be withdrawing at the end of the season.
The Premiership clubs have taken a united front in a row which sees them wanting more control of and more pertinently proceeds from the competition run by European Rugby Cup Ltd – which inturn is run by the respective unions.
Out of Europe: Joe Gray in action in the Heineken Cup for Quins last season, but will they be in the competition next year?
There are shades of the launch of football’s Premier League, where no one really quite saw the point of what was going on until the biggest clubs started pulling in huge profits, widening the gap between the haves and the have nots.
It looked like a strong united front when the Premiership sides were standing side by side with their French counterparts.
But with the French now saying they are prepared to play in the ERC competitions after all, the English clubs’ position has been severely weakened.
While a Heineken Cup without both countries would be a severely depleted competition it is worth pointing out that, while there have been five English winners in the 18 years of the competition, the last was Wasps seven years ago. The competition can survive without them.
Whatever the rights or wrongs, you can’t help feeling that the Premiership clubs’ stance is beginning to look like brinkmanship. And unless they end their splendid isolation, it will be the players and supporters of clubs like Quins who will miss out.
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