Football clubs 'legally bound to host rugby'

Organisers of the rugby World Cup in 2015 have told football's Premier League they have a 'legal and moral' obligation to free up stadiums for the event.

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Premier League - United pull Old Trafford from rugby duty
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England v Argentina at Old Trafford

Some of the Premier League's top clubs – such as Manchester United, Newcastle and Liverpool – signed an agreement for the use of their grounds with the tournament's organisers when the bid for the event was submitted in 2009.

However, they did this without permission from the Premier League whose season will clash with the rugby which is due to take place between September 18th and October 31st.

The Premier League will not set their fixtures for that season until June 2015. That is far too late for organisers of the World Cup, who need to finalise their chosen stadiums by early next year before starting to sell the 2.9 million tickets on offer.

"I am not surprised things are coming to the crunch at this time," former RFU chief executive Francis Baron told the Daily Telegraph.

"But as far as I am concerned all the stadiums in our bid have all signed venue-guarantee letters and they are legally obligated to provide their stadiums subject to resolving the actual dates.

"Of course you always had to address the scheduling issues much nearer the time. You couldn’t do it eight years in advance.

“What you can do eight years’ in advance is make an absolute, unequivocal commitment that you are going to provide your stadium and honour the clean stadium conditions and that you will work in good faith to find solutions to the scheduling problems when they arise nearer the date.

“They all have strong obligation, both moral and legal, to deliver."

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said he hoped that the Premier League could accommodate the rugby, but only on its own terms.

"It’s quite difficult because we won’t have a fixture list until July 2015 for that period, but we are talking to them about the practicalities,” he said.

"We will do what we can, but what we can do is limited.

"Football has to have primacy in a football stadium because these are football stadiums. If we can accommodate rugby around that, then of course we will and we would be happy to.

"But there is only so much you can do in cities in terms of fitting the matches in. In Manchester, for instance, we would have City or United playing on each weekend.”

The Rugby World Cup will cost around £80 million to stage, with £25m of that being underwritten by the government.

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