Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners has today (Friday) completed its acquisition of a 28-per-cent stake in the Pro14 cross-border rugby union competition from league organising body Celtic Rugby DAC.
The deal will provide a cash boost to the national unions whose clubs compete in the league and who are currently facing up to the financial challenges posed by the Covid-19 shutdown. The CVC proposal has previously been reported as worth £120m (€134m/$146m).
In a statement, Pro14 said that the deal would allow both the league and the Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport at professional and amateur level. Under the agreement, the member unions will retain the 72-per-cent majority share in Pro14.
A portion of the investment will be held centrally at Pro14 Rugby to allow the board to “invest in further capabilities for the business and in upgrading league operations in line with its growth ambitions”.
The Italian Rugby Federation (FIR) has also become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC and receive a share of the CVC investment.
Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi will continue to lead the league’s management team, working closely with CVC and the unions on executing its commercial plan.
CVC agreed a deal in principle to invest in Pro14 back in November and the deal was cleared by Ireland’s competition regulator in January. The company already holds a 27-per-cent stake in England’s Premiership and has also been planning a £300m investment in the Six Nations national team tournament.
The Pro14 agreement comes with CVC in exclusive talks about a €2.2bn ($2.4bn) proposal to invest in Italian football’s Serie A. News recently broke of CVC’s offer, which includes an investment in a company set up to sell domestic broadcast rights, potentially over a ten-year period from the 2021-22 season onwards.
Along with CVC’s proposal to acquire 20 per cent of a new company that manages the broadcast rights, Serie A’s international trademark and commercial development, CVC would also part finance a new investment fund responsible for driving the stadium development, several sources briefed on the plans told the Financial Times.
Dominic McKay, chairman of Celtic Rugby DAC and chief operating officer of Scottish Rugby, said: “Sport, like all of society is dealing with major challenges currently that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and it is testament to the strength of our partnership with CVC that they have committed to the game of rugby in a such a significant way. Their enthusiasm and commitment is a welcome vote of confidence in the future of the sport and the Guinness Pro14 as an international competition.”
The Pro14 started out as a competition for Welsh and Scottish teams in 1999 but has grown to include teams from Ireland, Italy and, more recently, South Africa.