Six Nations unions 'offered £100m each' to accept CVC bid for 30-per-cent stake
The rugby unions that participate in the annual Six Nations Championship stand to profit to the tune of more than £100 million ($132 million) each from a bid by CVC, the private equity firm, to take a stake in the championship.
The details of the controversial offer emerged as the unions prepare to meet with World Rugby, the sport’s international governing body, tomorrow to consider whether to take part in a proposed new Nations Championship that would likely preclude the possibility of accepting CVC's bid.
CVC’s offer is understood to be for a stake of about 30 per cent in the championship, meaning that the six unions - those of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy - would have to surrender their existing full control over the competition.
The proposed deal echoes CVC’s recent agreement to pay £210 million to take a 27-per-cent stake in in Premiership Rugby, the body which oversees English rugby union’s top clubs league. However, the Six Nations would be a much richer prize.
Shortly after that deal was announced, CVC had been reported to be targeting three or four other competitions, described as “major rugby properties” by one well-placed source, and understood to include the Guinness Pro14, the Europe-based competition involving clubs and provincial sides from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa.
The Premiership Rugby deal is understood to mean that CVC, which previously had a controlling stake in Formula 1, will run Premiership Rugby's commercial arm, but not the league itself.
It has been reported that each club will receive a lump sum of £18 million and benefit from further increases in broadcasting and sponsorship revenues achieved by CVC.
The Six Nations unions have been in advanced talks about pooling their rights for Six Nations and autumn home international matches against touring sides, mostly from the southern hemisphere, in a move that could stymie the plans for a separate Nations Championship.
The move would, they believe, dramatically increase the value of their rights, by creating a centrally-negotiated model, akin to English soccer’s lucrative Premier League. The presently negotiate their autumn international deals individually, albeit the Six Nations rights are already centrally negotiated.
World Rugby’s plans for the new Nations Championship are continuing to provoke outraged responses, with English and French clubs threatening to take legal action on the basis that the plans are in breach of an agreement made by World Rugby in San Francisco in 2017 to guarantee the structure of the international season until 2032.
Last week, World Rugby issued a detailed statement on the concept of the Nations Championship, in a bid to stem a damaging flow of headlines reflecting apparent consternation over the proposal among some of the sport’s stakeholders, especially the smaller, ‘tier-two’ unions.
Some of the Six Nations unions are also highly sceptical, with England’s Rugby Football Union telling the Daily Telegraph: “The RFU remains to be convinced that the world league proposals are a better option than we have today. Player welfare is very important to us, and at the moment we have more questions than answers on a number of fronts.”
The World Rugby model is based on all of the leading test nations pooling their broadcasting and commercial rights, a proposal that would be negated by a Six Nations deal with CVC.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Meanwhile, World Rugby has unveiled plans for a new look for its annual, top-tier HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series schedule beginning this year, with women’s world series events to be increased to eight for the first time, six of which will be combined with men’s events.
World Rugby said: “Dubai, Cape Town, New Zealand, Sydney, Hong Kong and Paris will host combined men’s and women’s sevens events from next season onwards as part of the next four-year world series hosting cycle.”
Nine of the existing men’s world series destinations – Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton, Sydney, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Paris – are set to feature again in the next four-year cycle, with the host location in USA to be confirmed at a later stage in the season.
In the women’s series, the USA Women’s Sevens will again be hosted in Glendale, Colorado, while Langford in British Columbia, Canada will also remain as a standalone event next season.
The announcement comes with World Rugby claiming: “As popularity and profile of rugby sevens continues to grow both on and off the field, boosted by Olympic inclusion, World Rugby saw unprecedented global interest, receiving more than 20 expressions of interest from member unions, as part of the highly competitive tender process.”
In 2018, World Rugby claimed record-breaking fan engagement figures, including an increase of 60 per cent in video views when compared with 2017 and more than 749,800 fans attending events globally.
Meanwhile, citing Nielsen research figures, World Rugby said that there had been a 39-per-cent increase in live broadcast audiences across both men’s and women’s series, from 9 million in 2017 to 12.6 million viewers in 2018.