Wales may have won the battle for the Six Nations on the pitch but off the field the fight for control of the tournament rages on.
A proposal from World Rugby, the sports governing body, to create a global competition has ignited interest in the Six Nations, which is subject to two sizeable investment offers.
The first, from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, is worth £500m for a 30 per cent stake in the championship and the proceeds of its commercial arm, while the second is a reported £1.75bn bid from agency IMG, which proposes to keep all equity in the sport.
Representatives from tier one nations, as well as Fiji, Japan and the International Rugby Players Association, met in Dublin two weeks ago to discuss World Rugbys National Championship plans following an initial backlash from stars including Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell, who said the “proposal shows no signs of improving an already difficult situation” regarding player welfare.
The timing of bids from CVC and IMG come at a time of flux and pose a serious threat to World Rugbys proposal, which would need to be agreed by all six unions and cannot be implemented alongside another deal.
World Rugbys vision for a 12-team competition would combine the six European unions with the four Rugby Championship teams, Japan and USA, maintaining the current competitions but amalgamating them with summer and autumn internationals.
Sides from the northern hemisphere would play those from the south, culminating in a grand final. It would also involve relegation and promotion in a bid to encourage development of other unions, but that has been strongly contested by Ireland, Scotland and Italy, with promotion only possible in years without a World Cup or British and Irish Lions tour.
Wales beat Ireland to complete a Six Nations Grand Slam last weekend (Source: Getty)
The proposal has £5bn backing from marketing company Infront Sports, led by Sepp Blatters nephew, Philippe Blatter, and promises each team £10m annually for 12 years. It pales in comparison, however, to the £100m per country CVC are offering up front for control of the commercial arm during a time of financial difficulty for even the richest unions.
The intricacies of IMGs proposal are unclear but it would likely involve unions pooling their commercial rights.
“Given Six Nations sponsorship deals are worth around £4m-5m a year, the CVC offer really usurps that,” M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment global chief executive Steve Martin tells City A.M. “They have a track record of turning things around and will be building to sell again in a number of a years. The positive would be a huge injection of money.
“Thats a great message: well leave it alone, we dont want to change anything. Thats nonsense. Theyll want to change a lot but messing with the Six Nations, which has great appeal, and moving to subscription broadcasters to increase commercial return could seriously dilute audiences.”
CVC has a history of investing in sport, most notably Formula One, inwhich it bought a 70 per cent controlling stake for around £1.4bn in 2006 before selling it for about £6.2bn to Liberty Media 11 years later.
It also acquired a 27 per cent stake in Premiership Rugby for £220m in December and has made similar approaches to the Pro14, showing intent to take increasing control of the sport.
It is a cash injection the European unions could use, but their southern hemisphere counterparts are even more in need as they struggle to compete financially. World Rugbys proposal, which is set to be Read More – Source