PARIS: French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte has proposed a radical new Club World Cup tournament to replace the existing European Champions Cup in a bid to increase club revenues that have taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Laporte, who is looking to be elected World Rugby vice-chairman in the governing body's vote next month, said he has had the idea in the works along with its chairman Bill Beaumont.
The proposal would see 20 teams from the northern and southern hemispheres - including clubs from the English Premiership, Pro14, Top14 and Super Rugby - taking part in a six-week tournament every year except in World Cup years.
A champion team each from the United States and Japan would also be involved.
"This crisis must push us to be innovative. Let's make this new competition, I'm sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow," Laporte was quoted as saying by French newspaper Midi Olympique.
"I've been working with Bill Beaumont on the restructuring of the international calendar in order to standardise the windows reserved for national teams.
"And, in fact, create a new window dedicated to clubs, which would allow the creation of a new international competition: the Club World Cup."
Laporte said he had discussed the proposal with Rugby Football Union's chief executive Bill Sweeney, who was "excited by the project", as well as French Top 14 chiefs.
The Champions Cup, run by European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), generally runs from October to May every year and involves clubs from unions that compete in the Six Nations - England, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy.
"The European competition is magnificent. With Toulon I was able to lift the trophy three times (as head coach) and I know what it can represent," Laporte added.
"But let's be frank, it doesn't generate enough income. If we want to develop this Club World Cup, we have to find dates. Without the Champions Cup, nine weekends are available."
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)