Coronavirus implications will delay completion of CVC’s €450m Six Nations deal
Negotiations ongoing due to uncertainty over international rugby fixture list
CVC Capital Partners’ estimated €450 million bid for a 14.5 per cent stake in the Six Nations is still in negotiation. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The suggestion that CVC Capital Partners will follow up their €140 million investment in the Pro14 by purchasing a 14.5 per cent stake in the Six Nations Championship for an estimated €450 million may ultimately come true but there has been no agreement, nor does their appear the prospect of one in the short term with regards to any deal, despite a story emanating from France.
French Rugby Federation (FFR) president and vice chairman of World Rugby Bernard Laporte said in an interview with French newspaper Midi Olympique following the union’s AGM that the deal could be struck within a couple of months.
“We are still in negotiations because of Covid. CVC wanted to review its offer, which is logical considering the period without a match that we have just experienced. A Six Nations tournament committee is in charge of the file. They just made a counter proposal last week. A meeting is to take place in the coming days, but I am confident that within two months it will be signed,” said Laporte.
“We are talking about a capital gain of around 14.5 per cent in a company created by the Six Nations tournament committee in which commercial rights will be managed. The sum invested by CVC will be distributed among the six shareholder federations in proportion to the number of licensees in each country.
“In the first discussion, there was talk of €79 million over five years. With the renegotiation, we will be closer to €75 million, but this represents a substantial sum which will allow us to continue the redistribution to the clubs and to carry out new projects.”
Irish sources suggest that a timeframe longer than the one outlined by Laporte may be required to copper-fasten a deal. It makes sense that neither side would be keen to tie themselves down as a matter of urgency to a five-year contract during the Coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty that attends; particularly what will be possible from a fixture and tournament perspective both later this year and what shape the 2021 Six Nations might take.
One aspect of the negotiations that will need to be ironed out is the tournament broadcast rights, and whether the constituent Six Nations unions want to retain free-to-air access or will they permit CVC to sell off the rights and potentially place them behind a paywall.
As things stand the Irish Government guidelines with regard to the live broadcasting of rugby games stipulate that deferred full coverage of Six Nations matches be made available free-to-air on the day. There is no requirement for the games to be transmitted live free-to-air unlike Ireland matches in a Rugby World Cup.
A priority for the IRFU from a financial perspective at the moment is to try and ensure that the remaining matches in the 2020 Six Nations are completed. Quite apart from the gate receipts from Ireland’s postponed home game against Italy at the Aviva stadium – they must also travel to face France in Paris – there is the matter of fulfilling television and sponsorships requirements that will realise the agreed revenue.
Once the tournament is completed the prize pot can also be divvied up between the competing countries. There can be no winner of a Grand Slam in the 2020 Six Nations so whoever finishes first will receive €5,523,000, with further amounts of €4,086,000, €2,982,000, €2,429,000, €1,877,000 and €1,325,000.
As far as World Rugby’s desire to harmonise a global fixture calendar, progress has been slow, and again there doesn’t appear to be a resolution or agreement imminent.
Given the global pandemic and recent issues in both New Zealand Australia – the border between Australia’s two most populous states, Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) will be closed from Wednesday due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Melbourne – there doesn’t appear to be any prospect of teams travelling from the southern hemisphere to the north in November for Test matches.
The outbreak in Victoria’s capital has seen hundreds of cases in the past two weeks; more than 95 per cent of new Australian infections. The closure will restrict travel to permit holders. Suggestions that Fiji and Japan might play matches in Europe also seem impractical with the most likely scenario a hope that the 2020 Six Nations can be completed.