LONDON - European rugby was plunged into disarray following an announcement by English clubs that they had agreed a separate TV deal with BT.
The future of the Heineken Cup is the subject of renewed doubt after BT secured exclusive live broadcast rights to games played by Aviva Premiership teams in Europe from 2014 for three years.
It is a provocative move by Premiership Rugby designed to force the hand of ERC, who run the Heineken Cup, which also pressurises the competition's current broadcaster Sky.
The English and French clubs are in dispute with ERC over the structure of the northern hemisphere's greatest club tournament, threatening to set up an alternative when the current agreement ends in 2014 if their demands are not met.
Their chief concern is a qualification structure that favours teams from the RaboDirect PRO 12 and qualifying will be the central talking point when ERC stakeholders meet in Dublin next Tuesday.
ERC reacted to the developments by issuing a statement claiming the deal with BT is "in breach both of IRB regulations and of a mandate from the ERC board itself". (PA)