Six Nations TV deal stays in unions’ control despite CVC cash – tournament chief

Scottish rugby will receive a cash injection of £44.5 million over the next five years as its share of the Six Nations deal with CVC Capital Partners.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 6:18 pm
Six Nations has struck a £365m deal with CVC Capital Partners.

The private equity firm has acquired a 14.3 per cent stake in the tournament – subject to regulatory approval – equating to a 1/7th share, with the six unions holding a share each.

Scotland’s percentage is significantly lower than that of the other home unions but is welcome nonetheless, especially after a year without paying supporters.

Ben Morel, the Six Nations chief executive, was at pains to stress that the deal does not necessarily mean the Championship will be lost to terrestrial television.

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Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

The CVC arrangement is that “the six unions will retain sole responsibility for all sporting matters as well as majority control of commercial decisions” – and Morel insists this includes TV rights.

The existing deal with ITV and BBC ends this year and it is feared that CVC will seek a return on investment through a move to pay TV channels, with negotiations concluding over the coming weeks.

“There is no correlation. CVC are interested in long-term value creation,” said Morel.

“Any decision over free-to-air, moving to pay… those decisions will remain in the power of the unions.

“The unions will have to make that thoughtful, long-term decision about what is in the best interests of the game.

“Ultimately financing is important because it funds the community and amateur game. It’s about finding that right balance. It wasn’t easy before and it’s not easy now.”

CVC’s investment will not be split evenly but divided among the six unions on a sliding scale, with England and France receiving the largest slices of the pie because they boast the biggest share of the audience.

England’s Rugby Football Union is in line to receive £95m over five years, more than double what the Scottish Rugby Union will receive.

Wales and Ireland will also take home more than the Scots, with the WRU set to receive £51m and IRFU £48m.

That leaves around £126m for France and Italy, of which the French are expected to get a share similar to England’s. Italy’s portion is thought to be in the region of £36m.

The long-term deal also includes the autumn internationals and the women’s and under-20s competitions and expands CVC’s interests in rugby after deals were struck with the Guinness Pro14 and Gallagher Premiership.

Italy’s stake ends any prospect of promotion and relegation in the Six Nations being introduced in the foreseeable future as the Azzurri seek to end their 30-match losing run.

Speaking last month, SRU chief executive Mark Dodson said the CVC investment would be “transformational” for the future of Scottish rugby. He envisaged using it to upgrade Murrayfield, keep the pro teams competitive, invest in community rugby and “future-proof” the sport in Scotland.

In a statement yesterday, the SRU said: “The arrival of CVC is a timely and strong expression of confidence in rugby and one which will directly benefit the wider game in Scotland in years to come.

“The initial amount for Scotland will be around £7.4m (before costs) at completion, out of a total allocation for Scotland of up to £44.5m (before costs) if Six Nations meets various future financial performance conditions.

“The proceeds generated from this partnership are spread over a period of five years. Scotland will also benefit from an increased commercial focus on the competition as a result of the partnership with CVC.

“Scottish Rugby’s Board and Council will take their time to determine how best to utilise this future income, having both backed the proposal to bring CVC on board.

“We look forward to working with CVC and our fellow Unions to continue to ensure the Six Nations remains the iconic and valued tournament it is today.”

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The deal, which has long been in the pipeline, is described as a “long-term strategic partnership”.

The Six Nations said in a statement: “Six Nations Rugby, the official organising body of the Six Nations Championships and Autumn Internationals, is pleased to announce that it has agreed a long-term strategic partnership with CVC Fund VII, subject to customary regulatory approvals.

“The partnership with Six Nations Rugby comes at an exciting time following the newly centralised ownership and operational activities for both the Men’s, Women’s & Under-20s Six Nations Championships, alongside the Autumn International series.

“The objective of the partnership is to invest to grow and develop the game; to further enhance the sporting spectacle of all the tournaments, the teams and the brands; and to build the data, technology, and broader commercial capabilities to support these ambitious plans.

"These steps will ensure continued development of these prestigious tournaments for the benefit of existing fans, and to attract a new more diverse and global fan base, which will support the wider rugby community, including the players, clubs, and unions, to achieve their full potential over the long-term.

“CVC will bring to the partnership its significant experience in sports, as well as its global network, working alongside the unions and the Six Nations Rugby management team, to deliver on ambitious growth plans for the Six Nations Championships and Autumn International series. 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.

"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. 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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