IRFU in line for €75m windfall as CVC acquire 14.5% Six Nations stake

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte confirms deal; IRFU don't comment

CVC Capital Partners will acquire a 14.5 per cent stake in the Six Nations, World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte has confirmed.

Midi Olympique are reporting the deal is worth €75 million to the French rugby federation and with the IRFU presumably receiving an equal share, this brings investment up to €450 million over five years.

It means the Luxembourg-based fund will control commercial rights for the Six Nations and the Pro 14.

"I think they are essential partners to the game," said Philip Browne, the IRFU chief executive, after banking €5.5 million last month. "We are very comfortable that the deal between CVC and the Pro 14 is actually a deal with each of the unions involved, who are shareholders of the Pro 14.


“From our point of view, we are satisfied we put the protections into the arrangements with CVC that ensures the control of the game . . . the laws of the game, the regulations, all of that lies 100 per cent with the unions.”

When the IRFU was approached for comment on the Six Nations deal, a spokesman responded: “We don’t comment on rumour.”

How the Six Nations package their broadcast rights will reveal CVC’s overall plan. The current financial crisis could tempt the new shareholders to take the 137-year old tournament off terrestrial television in order to secure the best return on investment behind a paywall. That may have been the plan all along.

The CVC takeover of rugby began in 2018 when English club owners sold a 27 per cent holding in Premiership Rugby. They recently acquired a 28 per cent share of the Pro 14 for €140 million, a figure which guarantees the IRFU €33.56 million over three seasons.

In March the firm's managing partner Nick Clarry described this latest decision as a "seminal moment" for the Six Nations, especially in the wake of rejecting World Rugby's Nations Championships plan.

“The six unions have to decide whether to give up control to World Rugby and Infront, and if this is the best way to build their sport and create long-term sustainable value,” said Clarry, who is also the current chair of The Old Vic theatre trust.

“In time CVC also envisages the creation of a ‘Club World Cup,’ a money-spinning tournament involving the best sides on the planet,” the Financial Times reported on February 22nd.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent