Bristol Bears owner wants more from CVC after 'disappointing' return on Premiership investment

Bristol Bears owner wants more from CVC after ‘disappointing’ return on Premiership investment - GETTY IMAGES
Bristol Bears owner wants more from CVC after ‘disappointing’ return on Premiership investment - GETTY IMAGES

Steve Lansdown, the owner of Bristol Bears, has become the first Premiership figurehead to voice his disappointment at the impact made on the competition by CVC Capital Partners.

A “new era for English professional club rugby” was heralded in December 2018 when it was announced that Premiership Rugby had finalised a deal worth £200 million for a minority stake thought to be worth around 27 per cent.

Almost four years on, though, Lansdown lamented the competition’s economic landscape as Wasps and Worcester Warriors appear to be in a fight for their very survival. It is said that his chief frustrations lie with the fact that commercial and broadcast revenues have not received the boost that was initially anticipated.

“Well Covid has obviously been a major factor in recent times,” Lansdown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It’s exacerbated the problem, probably. There’s just not enough money in the game, is the answer. All clubs get their revenue through ticket sales, central revenue and commercial revenue.

“Central revenue has been on the decline in recent years because of Covid and a lack of playing. Match-day revenue obviously dropped off a cliff with Covid and commercial revenue hasn’t picked up.

“We had the deal with CVC but, to date, that’s been, to be honest, a little bit disappointing. But hopefully we’ll see that improve in the future.”

‘Rugby is, in a way, its own worst enemy’

Lansdown, who co-founded a financial services firm and is thought to be worth over £1.2 billion, seemed to confirm that Bristol is indebted to him for around £50 million. This sum, however, has been put towards infrastructure and “building a team to compete at the highest level”.

He explained that there is a plan to “decrease” his contributions over the years but called on Premiership Rugby to increase commercial revenue and improve “the offering” to attract more investors.

“They are, like a lot of businesses across the UK and across the world after the pandemic,” Lansdown said. “Rugby is, in a way, its own worst enemy. It’s a fabulous game. It attracts great spectators, great fans, but it’s a question of getting the revenue into the business.

“For people to invest into it, it’s a passion. It’s not one you point to and say you make a return on your money, so you have to go into it with your eyes open [knowing] that it is going to be a bit of a black hole for a time. That’s the difficulty.”

“What PRL need to do is to really focus on commercial revenue or generating new revenue, and improving the offering that we get out there to attract other investors into the sport,” he added.