The Welsh representation in the competition was discussed following the switch from five to four regions at the end of last season. This meant ERC were faced with either losing Welsh representation in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup or finding another team to make up the balance of 24 teams in the Heineken Cup.
After considering a number of options, the Board agreed to grant Wales four places by right in next season's 10th anniversary Heineken Cup tournament. However, from 2005 / 2006 Wales will have only three guaranteed places in the competition available to them.
"The changes that have taken place in the professional game in Wales over the past 18 months have impacted on our tournaments and forced us, once again, to reassess the means of qualifying for the Heineken Cup," said ERC Chairman Jean-Pierre Lux.
WRU Chief Executive David Moffett welcomed the announcement.
"The WRU is very grateful for the on-going support it has received from its ERC partners. This is a very important decision for our regions and we are delighted with the outcome for not only next season, but also for the format put in place for future qualification.
"We recognise that once again the ERC Board has made a concession to Wales. In doing so, they have also given the Celtic League a major boost by giving the sides involved an extra route to claim a Heineken Cup place," he said.
Mr Lux added: "The Heineken Cup is the flagship of the professional club game in the northern hemisphere and we want it to remain as competitive in the future as it has been in the previous nine years. We feel the system for qualification we have devised for the future is fair to every nation and also gives an extra incentive to teams in the Celtic League and the Italian Championship."
The make-up of the 24 teams for the 2004/2005 competition will be as follows:
HEINEKEN CUP 2004 / 2005
ENGLAND - 7 teams (London Wasps, Bath Rugby, Northampton Saints, NEC Harlequins, Newcastle Falcons, Gloucester, Leicester Tigers)
FRANCE - 6 teams (Perpigan / Stade Français Paris, Castres Olympique, Toulouse, Bourgoin, Biarritz Olympique)
WALES - 4 teams (Llanelli Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Neath-Swansea Ospreys, Cardiff Blues)IRELAND - 3 teams (Munster, Leinster, Ulster)
SCOTLAND - 2 teams (Edinburgh Rugby, Glasgow Rugby)
ITALY - 2 teams (Benetton Treviso, Rugby Calvisano)
The Pools and fixtures for the 2004 / 2005 Heineken Cup will be announced on Tuesday, 29 June, and the time and date of matches in the early rounds of matches will be confirmed in August following meetings with broadcast partners across Europe.