The Six Nations is set for a much-needed cash windfall with private equity company CVC close to completing a purchase of a 14.5 per cent stake in the Championship, according to reports in France.
At an annual general meeting of the French Rugby Union held over the weekend, president Bernard Laporte confirmed that CVC is “at the end of negotiations” with FFR standing to gain £66.5 million over a five-year period.
That windfall is desperately needed with all unions haemorrhaging cash because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The Rugby Football Union is forecasting losses of £50m while the Welsh Rugby Union is predicting a similar deficit if no more international rugby is played this year.
CVC has already purchased similar stakes in Premiership Rugby and PRO14, but negotiations with the Six Nations had stalled because of the pandemic. There were fears that CVC may walk away or even dramatically reduce its valuation of the Six Nations, however this does not appear to be the case.
"The health crisis has delayed discussions, but we are at the end of the negotiations,” Laporte said. “It is an opportunity for us. Between €75m and €80m will be redistributed over five years. I remind you that this is a marketing and commercial agency, but which will not interfere in the sports field, as some fear. "
Although an exact breakdown of the the deal has not been revealed, it is understood that CVC have only marginally lowered its original £300m offer with Laporte being quoted saying the FFR’s share fell from £70m to £66.5m. It is not clear whether every union will receive the same share with the French and English commanding the dominant television markets.
CVC will be responsible for the tournament’s commercial rights and that will increase fears that the Six Nations will move away from free to air television. While the Six Nations remains the gateway for millions of fans to access rugby, selling the television rights to a satellite or internet broadcaster is the single quickest way to raise further revenue. BBC and ITV currently hold the rights in the United Kingdom in a deal worth around £50m which ends in 2021.
In the United Kingdom, the Six Nations does not fit within the Government’s “Crown Jewel” list of sporting events that have to be broadcast on terrestrial television.