The draw for the composition of the Pools for future Heineken Cup tournaments will be based on a new merit based ranking structure - the ERC European Ranking.
Following the recent signing of the 2007 Accord, the Board of ERC directed a Working Party, made up of representatives of Clubs, Unions and the ERC Executive; to develop a merit based ranking system to reward consistent European performance.
The new ERC European Ranking aims to reward and incentivise teams who consistently perform at the highest level in European competition over four seasons by separating the leading teams in the Pool stages.
The 24 competing teams will continue to qualify through their domestic tournaments and will then, for the purposes of the Pool draw, be awarded different points for their finishing positions in the two ERC organised competitions, the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup, over the previous four seasons.
Teams can earn between one to 11 points each season in the Heineken Cup and up to five points in the European Challenge Cup to go towards their four season roll-over ERC European Ranking.
The rankings will establish four tiers of six teams each with the reigning Heineken Cup champions automatically going into Tier 1 along with Europe's other, currently, most successful teams.
The draw, which is scheduled to take place in June, will distribute one team from each of the four Tier levels into each of the six Pools. As before, no teams from the same country will be drawn in the same Pool with the exception of when there are seven teams qualified from either England or France.
Under the new system, irrespective of qualification for the knock-out stages, all teams will be incentivised to finish in the highest possible position in the Heineken Cup. And progress through to the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup will also carry extra value and be of major importance for those emerging clubs as they attempt to climb the European ladder.
Where teams are on the same points, the team that has played in the Heineken Cup in the previous season will be ranked higher. This process will continue until the teams are separated. If the ranking is still undecided then the ranking wil be based on the points from each previous season until the teams are separated.