Private equity giants CVC have further strengthened their hand in rugby union by finalising a £365m deal for a 14% share in the Six Nations.
The deal has been two years in the making, and comes after CVC bought a stake in the Premiership and Pro14.
The money will be split on a sliding scale between the unions, with the Rugby Football Union receiving £95m.
“This is a hugely positive development,” said Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel.
“When we started this journey, our aim was to ensure we found the right strategic partner, who can add real value and is committed to a long-term relationship.
“CVC recognises the exciting potential in the Six Nations Championships and autumn international series, and they are aligned with our vision for the future.”
The deal incorporates the Women’s and Under-20s tournaments, plus the autumn international series, with the six unions recently centralising their ownership and operational activities.
The Six Nations say the objective of the partnership with CVC is to “invest to grow and develop the game”, with an aim to “attract a new more diverse and global fan base”.
“The CVC Fund VII investment into Six Nations Rugby will be paid to the six unions over a period of five years, reflecting the long-term nature of the partnership,” said a Six Nations statement.
“This capital investment, combined with the expected growth of the tournaments, will help the unions to support the development of rugby at all levels in their respective territories over the years ahead.”
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Six Nations lose control?
The Six Nations have moved to allay fears they have “sold out” to CVC, and will be relinquishing undue control of the game’s oldest championship as a result.
“Under the terms of the agreement, the six unions will retain sole responsibility for all sporting matters as well as majority control of commercial decisions,” added the statement.
The Welsh Rugby Union, who will receive a £50m windfall, has heralded “a pivotal moment in the history of the international game in Wales”.
The Irish Rugby Football Union will get £48m and described it as “very positive news for Irish rugby”, but stressed the “extremely precarious financial situation” the union finds itself in because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish Rugby will receive £44.5m and called the deal “an important step in the evolution of the Six Nations”.
England’s RFU has also welcomed CVC’s arrival on the international stage at a time of financial crisis.
“We are delighted that the Six Nations unions have unanimously decided to partner with CVC,” said RFU chief Bill Sweeney.
“CVC capital of around £95m over the next five years will allow the RFU to invest in revenue-generating activity to continue to support the community and professional game for many years to come.”
Sweeney said potential areas for investment included “club, ground and stadium development, data and digital investment and opportunities to further grow the women’s game”.
He added: “As a result of significant revenue losses, we will also apportion some CVC capital in the short term to pay down debt and rebuild reserves.”
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