CVC’s Six Nations bid threatens to derail World Rugby’s global league plans

Six Nations Ltd is considering an offer from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners which could have significant ramifications for World Rugby’s plans for a global Nations Championship.

According to the BBC, CVC’s bid is worth over £600m for a 30-per-cent stake in the Six Nations Championship and is currently under consideration from the six national unions, who say a deal is “not imminent.” SportBusiness reported CVC’s interest last month, and it appears that a formal offer is now on the table.

The offer will be given serious, and careful, consideration. If accepted, it will almost certainly put an end to the concept of a ‘Nations League’ that would see the Six Nations folded into a wider global competition. CVC would look to keep the Six Nations separate from this and maximise the value of its new asset.

The unions of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales have been engaged in internal discussions over the past 18 months over a collectivisation of their commercial and media rights – dubbed ‘Project Light’ – as they seek to grow the value of the Six Nations Championship.

They must now decide between selling a stake to private equity or fully embracing World Rugby’s competition. Ultimately, the decision may come down to whether the likes of Ireland and Scotland – known opponents of the Nations League – feel their interests are better served in the long-term by a sale to private equity than through closer alliance with World Rugby.

With 30 per cent of the championship owned by CVC, it would mean 30 per cent less revenue going to each union. However, it would offer a significantly improved negotiating position for the Six Nations’ commercial rights. CVC may even be tempted to sell the broadcast rights to a subscription broadcaster, removing the championship from free-to-air television.

Last year, CVC purchased a 27-per-cent stake in Premiership Rugby for £230m, and is close to closing a deal to invest in the Pro14 club competition.