European rugby dispute resolved

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The two-year disagreement over the future of European club rugby has been resolved.

An agreement for a new tournament to replace the existing European Cup structure has been signed, European Rugby and the Rugby Football Union announced on Thursday night.

The 20-team Champions Cup will be the showpiece event of European Professional Club Rugby, the newly-established Switzerland-based organisers.

The RFU said in a statement: " A new deal on European club rugby has been signed. All nine stakeholders have underlined their commitment to an invigorated competition that will start in the 2014/5 season and meets the requirements of all the parties involved."

The RFU statement added: "BT and Sky have 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 BT Sport and Sky Sports."

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. We are delighted with the deal that has been struck and are hugely excited about bringing live action from both tournaments to our TV customers."

BT Sport and Sky have agreed a four-year rights-sharing deal, with both parties admitting compromise was in all interests.

Allied to a second-tier Challenge Cup, there will also be a new, third-tier qualifying competition, expected to be held in September to feed teams into the Challenge Cup.

The top six Premiership and Top 14 finishers this season will qualify automatically for next term's Champions Cup, along with the top seven in the PRO 12.

The final qualification berth will be taken by the winner of a play-off between the seventh-placed English and French league clubs, with exact details yet to be finalised.

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