Premiership clubs could scupper Racing 92’s Kieran Read bid
Private equity investment may see English sides target All Black stars post World Cup
Kieran Read, 33, has said he is likely to leave New Zealand after the 2019 World Cup. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Racing 92’s bid to sign the New Zealand captain Kieran Read after next year’s World Cup on a £1million-a-year contract could be gazumped if Premiership clubs accept an investment of more than £200 million (€224.4 million) from a private equity firm next month.
The clubs will vote on the offer for a minority stake in Premiership Rugby by CVC, the former owners of Formula One. The company believes it can make a significant return on its investment by securing lucrative sponsorship and television deals in the next decade.
Each club would be armed with a payment of £20 million. The aim is that it will be used for infrastructure projects and reducing debt with the salary cap pegged for the next two seasons, but sides are allowed two marquee players who are not part of the cap and Read is in that category.
Read, 33, has said he is likely to leave New Zealand after the 2019 World Cup. “We have always thought as a family that we would like to go overseas and use that experience for the kids. That is probably the main option at the moment.” He revealed that he had plenty of options, with retirement being one of them.
Racing 92 are confident that if Read does move to Europe, the northern half of Paris will be his destination. They had lined up the New Zealand centre Ryan Crotty, but that move has been shelved because signing both would take them over the Top 14’s salary cap.
A number of All Blacks have played for Racing. Joe Rokocoko is in the current squad, Dan Carter last season finished a three-year stint there and Ali Williams ended his career with last season’s beaten European Champions Cup finalists.
Racing’s president, Jacky Lorenzetti, has made signing Read his top priority, but reports in France claim that two Premiership clubs have made offers to Read, who took over the New Zealand captaincy from Richie McCaw after the 2015 World Cup.
Other All Blacks will be targets for French and English clubs after the World Cup, not least outhalf Beauden Barrett, fullback Ben Smith and Crotty, while the prop Owen Franks, whose brother Ben plays for Northampton, has said that moving overseas is an option.
The salary cap in France is £3 million more than it is in the Premiership but the marquee player provision partly makes up the difference and in a season in which, approaching the halfway mark, eight clubs are in a relegation battle, the need for players who can make a difference is more acute.