World Rugby’s Nations Championship faces its first acid test with reports from the BBC suggesting that the Six Nations is considering a staggering offer for a minority stake.
CVC Capital Partners, who bought a 27 percent stake in Gallagher Premiership for £200m in December, has put £600m on the table for a 30 percent stake in Six Nations competition. Should they accept the offer, it could cause the Six Nations to break ranks and source their next rights deal putting a World League in doubt. It is thought that CVC would push for a pay-TV broadcaster on the next deal, taking away many of the current free-to-air broadcasts.
It could also make it more difficult to make cosmetic changes to the competition such as promotion and relegation as suggested by the World League proposal, depending on how CVC views the change.
World Rugby executives are due to meet in Dublin this week to discuss the World League proposal that is due to start in 2022, which has received an overwhelming amount of public backlash. It is thought that Ireland and Scotland oppose the global league due to concerns around promotion-relegation.
If the unions were to accept the proposal they would receive healthy cash injections of up to £100m but the long-term effects of the international game could be compromised with the game in private hands.
Any move away from the World League would be a blow for the Southern Hemisphere nations, who would be set to get a bump in revenues from the pooled commercial interests. If the Southern Hemisphere unions are left at the alter it could be seriously damaging for unions under financial pressure like Rugby Australia.
The longer it takes to get buy-in for the World League, it becomes more unlikely to go ahead. It will be a case of ‘who blinks first’ with unions keen to renew rights deals for their existing competitions. SANZAAR, in particular, has to finalise what their Super Rugby competition looks like with increasing pressure on Sunwolves and the potential for a South African exodus to the Northern Hemisphere.
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