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Q & A on CVC’s offer to buy stake in Six Nations

Six Nations chiefs have lined up a deal with the private equity firm to sell off a stake in rugby’s oldest competition.

Ireland star Johnny Sexton has been vocal on his views over rugby’s future (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ireland star Johnny Sexton has been vocal on his views over rugby’s future (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Six Nations could sell off a stake to private equity firm CVC in a move that could scupper World Rugby’s Nations Championship proposals.

Here, Press Association Sport examines the latest twists and turns in the sport’s complex power wrangling.

What do Six Nations bosses want?

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Ireland captain Rory Best, centre, lifts the Six Nations trophy in 2018 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Six Nations chiefs have lined up a deal with private equity firm CVC to sell off a stake in rugby’s oldest competition, that would see the national unions within that tournament receiving a windfall of more than £100million. The unions would lose some control of the championship however, with CVC then overseeing the tournament’s commercial rights. Six Nations bosses want to maximise revenues, among other routes through maximising broadcast revenues.

Why would CVC buying into the Six Nations threaten World Rugby’s Nations Championship?

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Sir Bill Beaumont is leading World Rugby’s plans for Test level reform (Brian Lawless/PA)

World Rugby will host summit meetings in Dublin on Thursday designed to assuage a host of fears and frustrations around its controversial Nations League proposals. The game’s global governing body wants to launch an annual contest to determine the world’s best team, starting in 2022. That would see the Six Nations’ best sides facing off with the top Test teams from the Rugby Championship, plus two further nations drawn into that Southern Hemisphere competition. World Rugby’s proposals will only work if the Six Nations agrees to promotion and relegation, but the bosses of that European contest remain mainly opposed to the idea.

What are the downsides to CVC’s Six Nations proposals?

American firm CVC has already invested in the English Premiership league, and wants to push rugby forward at all top levels. Its drive to realise as much financial gain within the sport effectively translates into sponsorship and broadcasting rights. And where television is concerned, the way for CVC to maximise revenue is to strike a deal for the Six Nations to be screened on pay subscription services. Removing the Six Nations from free-to-air television would likely have a negative impact on participation numbers at grassroots level, causing a knock-on effect at the top level in future.

Why so much opposition to World Rugby’s Nations Championship?

Top players across the world are more attuned to their own welfare and safety than ever before. The International Rugby Players Association recently savaged World Rugby’s plans as a sizeable threat to future player safety. Leading lights Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton and Kieran Read spoke for all their fellow players when insisting the game’s top talents do not want to play more Test rugby each season. Early drafts for the Nations Championship set-up suggested the Pacific Island nations could be frozen out too. Pressure group Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has threatened to ballot its 600-plus members on boycotting the 2019 World Cup should that situation come to pass.

Who are CVC?

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Bernie Ecclestone stayed on to run F1 under investment form CVC (Nick Ansell/PA)

Private investment firm CVC owned Formula One between 2006 and 2017, before Liberty Media completed a takeover. Its European company was founded in 1981 and boasts investments across the globe. CVC has been characterised as drawing as much financial gain as possible from F1 and now seems determined to follow suit in rugby.

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