Premiership Rugby hopes to conclude a £230 million (€254 million) agreement with a private equity firm before Christmas after a board meeting on Tuesday failed to tie up a few loose ends.
When the 13 shareholders in Premiership Rugby, made up of the 12 clubs in the top flight plus London Irish, first discussed the proposal in September they rejected it, not least because CVC Capital Partners wanted a 50 per cent stake in the league.
This week’s meeting at Heathrow agreed the deal – which would give CVC a 35 per cent stake – in principle, leaving the executive arm of Premiership Rugby to sort out the unresolved issues in the next two weeks.
"There remains unanimity about our approach and our desire to enter into a requirement for a significant investment which we think will herald a new era for the league," said the Premiership Rugby chairman, Ian Ritchie. "We remain on track in achieving our objectives but nothing has yet been concluded.
“These discussions are inevitably complex and take whatever time is necessary. We had a good meeting and have a shared objective. We are still in discussions and they will continue. We have to take time to make sure things are done in the right way.”
Clubs would each receive around £18 million (€20 million) if the deal goes through but they would be better off in the long-term only if income from central funds rose by significantly more than the 35 per cent stake CVC is looking to take.
The company would take that percentage from the pot each year, meaning that if it did not grow the clubs’ annual income would shrink. They were reassured the lump sum they receive will be a windfall with proceeds from sponsorship and broadcasting deals expected to rise significantly if CVC gets involved.
CVC, which used to own Formula One, would have no say in the running of the league but would lead its commercial arm. “We are not there yet because discussions like this one are not straightforward,” said the Premiership Rugby chief executive, Mark McCafferty. “It is a question of time rather than principle and we would like to resolve this before Christmas.
“It always comes down to a few issues and we will work through them. Nothing is done until it’s done and it will not drag on. With the collective will around the table today, we can find the answers to those items. If we get there, it will be a landmark moment that will allow clubs to make the next wave of investment on grounds and fan experience.” – Guardian