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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 3 June, 2020
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£30m from CVC investment in the Pro14 a welcome boost for IRFU

Meanwhile, there is a drive to create more meaningful Test matches moving forward.

THE IRFU HAS welcomed private equity firm CVC’s investment in the Guinness Pro14, with the Irish union set to receive £30 million [€33.5 million] over the next three years as a result of the deal.

The Pro14 confirmed earlier today that CVC has acquired a 28% share of the company in a deal that is understood to have been worth more than €130 million overall.

CVC already had a 27% stake in England’s Premiership and has been in discussions with the Six Nations about acquiring around 15% of the championship.

sean-obrien-celebrates-with-teammates-after-winning-the-guinness-pro14-final Leinster lift last season's Pro14 trophy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

At a time when Irish rugby and the entire sport is facing huge financial difficulties, IRFU CEO Philip Browne welcomed CVC’s investment in the Pro14, but also stressed that it is a positive for more than just the money.

The IRFU was due to receive an initial sum of around £5 million [€5.5 million] today, with the remaining payments phased out over the next three years.

That boost comes as the union faces the drastic financial effects that could continue to be caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Browne said the IRFU will face losses of €15 to €20million in revenues if the postponed 2020 Six Nations games and the November Tests are not played this year. If those fixtures are played behind closed doors, it would mean a loss of €10 to 15million.

There could be a €30million loss for the IRFU if the 2021 Six Nations cannot be played, or €16million if the championship is played behind closed doors.

As such, any boost from the CVC deal is timely.

“It’s very positive news, not just for the financial benefits it brings, but, almost as importantly at this time, for the confidence it shows in the Pro14 tournament and the game of rugby in general,” said Browne.

“The Pro14 has grown in strength and in reputation over the past number of years and in order to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands for the positioning, marketing and financing of a modern sports franchise, in the face of competition from other rugby and other sports franchises, it’s critical that fresh financial sources and marketing expertise are made available to the tournament.

“The most effective source for this, as agreed by the board and shareholders of Pro14, is an outside partner. We see CVC as an ideal partner to fill this role and believe this partnership will serve to increase the ambition, scope and attractiveness of the tournament in the coming seasons for players, fans and commercial partners.”

josh-van-der-flier-and-jordan-larmour-celebrate-after-the-game The IRFU is hoping to see more meaningful international Test matches. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Meanwhile, Browne also welcomed the positive discussions between the Six Nations and its Southern Hemisphere counterpart, SANZAAR, about an aligned global calendar.

The IRFU CEO indicated that creating more meaningful international competition is central to the discussions.

It is understood that World Rugby’s Nations Championship concept that was scrapped last year due to a lack of support from unions is now back on the agenda.

“I think there would be a view that the tours of the Southern Hemisphere in June/July are not the most commercially lucrative, there’s not a heck of a lot of meaning to them,” said Browne.

“Equally, when the Southern Hemisphere teams come up to Europe in November, it’s a set of one-off matches, there’s no sense of structure or meaning to the matches.

“From a commercial point of view, it makes some sense to see if we can put something together that has greater commercial meaning, greater commercial value, and be of greater interest to the general rugby public.

“Given the circumstances at the moment, it’s in everyone’s interest to see if we can revisit those issues and see if we can find some solution that delivers all of that.

“Player welfare obviously has to come into it in a big way and that has always been one of the challenges. There has been a good level of interaction going on between the Six Nations and SANZAAR to see if we can find solutions to the problems that have been there.”

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Murray Kinsella

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