Update: PRO14 sell 28 percent stake to CVC private equity firm

Deal is worth "north of £20 million" to Scottish Rugby and governing body "has no immediate plans for the allocation of funds"

Leinster are the reigning PRO14 champions. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Leinster are the reigning PRO14 champions. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

THE Board of the Guinness PRO14 league have agreed “a significant strategic partnership investment” with CVC Capital Partners, the global private equity house.

Under this agreement, CVC will acquire a 28 per cent share of PRO14 Rugby from Celtic Rugby DAC, while the Unions will retain the 72 per cent majority share. The value of the sale has not been disclosed, but SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson stated in a conference call with media this afternoon that the deal is worth ‘north of £20 million’ to the game in this country.

In 2018, CVC committed £200 million for a 27 per cent holding in Premiership Rugby, the top tier of the English club game, and they were understood to be on the precipice of a £300 million deal for a 14 percent stake of the Six Nations before it was pushed back by the Covid-19 global pandemic.


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A statement from PRO14 said: “The partnership commitment will allow both PRO14 Rugby and the Irish, Italian, Scottish & Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport, both professional and amateur, to achieve its potential over the long term.

“A portion of the investment will also be held centrally at PRO14 Rugby, for the Board to invest in further capabilities for the business and in upgrading league operations in line with its growth ambitions.”

As part of this agreement, the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), will also become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC, and receive a share of the investment.

Scottish Rugby welcomed the announcement and said that it had no immediate plans for the allocation of funds.

“Against the current COVID-19 pandemic background and the associated concerns it has generated in society and sport the conclusion of the CVC project will provide some positive news for rugby across the PRO14 nations of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy,” said a statement issues by the Murrayfield press office.

“Scottish Rugby’s Board will consider this new investment as part of its on-going budget management and has no immediate plans for the allocation of the funds. It intends to safeguard the investment until a clearer picture emerges of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The unions will remain independently responsible for the sporting and regulatory elements of the league, via the Sporting & Regulatory Committee.

“I am delighted that we have managed to welcome CVC into the Guinness PRO14 as our partner,” said SRU Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay, who is also Chairman of Celtic Rugby DAC.

“As a Board, we have been ambitious in our outlook and have significantly developed the league in recent years. One of our key goals was to secure a strategic partner to help accelerate our plans and CVC bring a wealth of experience and great expertise in this regard.

“Sport, like all of society is dealing with major challenges currently that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and it is testament to the strength of our partnership with CVC that they havecommitted to the game of rugby in a such a significant way.

“Their enthusiasm and commitment is a welcome vote of confidence in the future of the sport and the Guinness PRO14 as an international competition. Completing this partnership with CVC is testament to the hard work invested by many people who have focused to deliver a bright vision for PRO14 and enable it to realise its commercial value in the global sports market.

“We are also delighted that the FIR has now joined Celtic Rugby DAC as a shareholder after 10 years of participation in the league. Alongside my PRO14 Board colleagues at the Irish, Italian, Welsh and South African rugby unions I would like to warmly welcome CVC to the Guinness PRO14.”

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Martin Anayi, Chief Executiveof PRO14 Rugby, said: “CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment, including Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby. This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the fans, the players and the game.

“We are very pleased to partner with CVC, who saw us as an ambitious, fast paced and innovative organisation, situated across a number of core rugby nations that can deliver an increasing impact.

“We have been clear that we believe the Guinness PRO14 is a world-class club league, that is still in its growth phase and we are confident that it will become a major standard bearer in our sport. We are excited that CVC clearly shares that ambition and we look forward to working with them to deliver on the league’s promise in the years ahead.”

Dodson said: “We believed, and were quite clear, that the potential for external investment into our sport was possible and were in the vanguard of this through the delivery of the CVC partnership.

“The conclusion of the CVC investment into PRO14 is the culmination of a huge amount of work and is a welcome positive boost for the sport in these extremely challenging times.

“It demonstrates a confidence in the future of rugby in Scotland and our PRO14 partner nations and shows the tournament is an attractive commercial proposition, which is open to innovative thinking and partnership working.

“This deal has a value to rugby in Scotland and the PRO14 beyond the financial transaction as it brings CVC’s knowledge and influence on board, which we look forward to seeing the benefits of in the years to come.

“Our current focus remains on supporting the rugby community at every level at this difficult time and keeping our staff, players and all those associated with the game safe.”


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1818 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

8 Comments

  1. Possible funding for a third pro team?

    I also wonder what will happen with the South African teams. Super Rugby was in trouble even before Covid hit. Australia want a trans-Tasman league, and the Kiwis would be happy watching Mitre 10 Cup.

  2. Will be interesting to see what return the stakeholders of the Union now get following the years of investment in Pro rugby.

  3. This is not an investment. This is effectively a short term bailout where the interest rate to be paid back is far in excess of that available in the commercial world. Short-sightedness at the extreme level from those that do not believe they can grow the game organically. I guess that this means additional bonuses will be paid out to the vastly overpaid within the SRU Executive.

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    • When you offer an incentive bonus scheme to individuals, they can’t wait to get their hands on the bonus so they obviously want to expedite the ‘paper’ profit and move on before the true cost of their bonus is revealed: but I’ve a feeling that I’m teaching my Granny to suck Eggs, I’m sure you thought of that yourself.

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    • Spot on John Brown. And – a host of advisers & consultants are also set to benefit…

      This potentially expensive “new money” isn’t going to the grassroots game; despite what they say up at Murrayfield, it will neatly cover up the cash-burning ProTeam model and the massive staff complement’s financial burden – two big outfits awash with foreign imports, all dressed up with nowhere to go (or play) and a hugely over-egged legion of employees.

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  4. At first glance £120m [if that figure is correct] is not a huge amount to spread across the participant Unions which rather questions the benefits, what will they want for their pieces of Silver? Dodson’s comment ‘ it brings CVC’s knowledge and influence on board’ could well be a concern and I rather suspect CVC Suits will have the likes of Dodson for breakfast. Vigilance is required.

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    • CVCs knowledge and influence in rugby Union is what exactly?

      The are a PE fund nothing more or less. Their purpose is to make money. Lots of it preferably. The F1 guys were distraught when CVC sold up…..

      I’m with you George. Caveat Emptor

    • I’d be heartbroken if they got control of the commercial arm of the 6 nations but less concerned about the pro 14. What cvc are good at is making money and the pro 14 needs lots of help growing the game, putting bums on seats and gaining exposure. If cvc pull that off then the SRU will benefit. I’d also love a 3rd team but that ain’t going to happen any time soon.

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