Champions Cup will begin next month despite no main sponsorship deal

Mark McCafferty, CEO of Premiership Rugby.

Mark McCafferty, CEO of Premiership Rugby.

The inaugural Champions Cup will kick off next month without all its major sponsors in place, one of the new European competition's key architects has admitted.

European rugby bosses are yet to sign off any main-partner deals, just four weeks before the replacement for the Heineken Cup gets underway.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty, instrumental in helping form Europe's new set-up, said not all five main partner deals will be complete when the competition kicks off on October 17.

Governing body European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is thought to be unfazed about entering the new era with deals still to be done thanks to record TV revenues that form the competition's financial bedrock.

"The highest value priority for the new tournaments has been the TV deals," McCafferty told Press Association Sport.

"These will now generate more than Euro 220million over the next four years which will be about Euro 55million per annum and a 60 per cent increase.

"This now gives EPCR a very strong platform from which to bring in the partner sponsors.

"Not all will be on board by this season's tournament launch, but it is essential to the vision for EPCR that it partners with multinational brands which share its long-term vision for the success of European club rugby."

Heineken had been expected to complete terms on a major sponsorship deal for the new tournament, but Press Association Sport understands a number of glitches have delayed a deal deemed straightforward last month.

Negotiations also remain ongoing to thrash out the finer details of television rights deals to broadcast the competition in both France and Italy.

New European bosses have been aiming to switch the tournament's sponsorship profile and follow the model employed by football's Champions League.

The Champions Cup will forego a title sponsor in favour of five official partners.

It is understood however, that no sponsorship deals have yet been ratified, despite the tournament starting when Harlequins host Castres at The Stoop on October 17.

Competition planning is now at least two months behind regular schedule.

The record-breaking British broadcast deal for a right-sharing between BT Sport and Sky will effectively underwrite this year's tournament.

Competition chiefs are confident the British deal, and lucrative global terms, can safeguard the financial interests of all varying national club bodies.

A four-year deal has been struck in principle for the Qatari-owned beIN Sports to broadcast Champions Cup action in France.

Euro chiefs cannot sign off this contract however without first completing a compromise agreement to allow France TV to screen one Champions Cup match a week on terrestrial television.

New governing body EPCR has succeeded European Rugby Cup (ERC) in running the continent's top club competition.

The new body has had to outsource the running of the Champions Cup back to Dublin-based ERC this season however.

EPCR bosses were left red-faced after failing to compose a new body of staff in their new Neuchatel base in time to assume total tournament governance for the 2014/15 campaign.

French and English clubs spent two years battling for change in Europe to create a new tournament based on equality in qualification processes and to boost overall revenues.

Once a truce had been brokered between BT Sport and Sky, the successor to the Heineken Cup was finalised