Six Nations organisers have refused to substantiate the statements made by French Federation president Bernard Laporte that the sale of a stake in the championship to CVC is close to a done deal.
Laporte was reported to have told the annual meeting of the French Rugby Federation that the sale of a 14.5% stake in the Six Nations would be worth €73 million to his union over five years was near conclusion now the parties were “at the end of negotiations”.
Six Nations Rugby Ltd, of which all six participating countries including Ireland’s IRFU are shareholders, had put talks with private equity company CVC Capital Partners on hold at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. CVC, which is also a minority shareholder in England's Premiership Rugby Limited, has since concluded the purchase of a 28% stake in the Guinness PRO14 competition which netted the IRFU €30 million, payment of which is to be phased across three seasons. The Irish governing body is set to land a bigger sum when any deal is reached over the sale of the Six Nations stake with the total deal pre-pandemic reported to be worth €330 million.
When that deal will be done, however, remains to be seen with a Six Nations spokesperson last night telling the Irish Examiner: “The discussions are ongoing but there are no further comments at this time because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.”
It is understood there is no rush to get the deal over the line, despite the current lack of revenue with no rugby and therefore no significant income likely until the resumption of the sport at Test level. The 2020 Guinness Six Nations was suspended in March with Ireland still needing to play two more games, one home to Italy and away against France with late October the target for the Championship to be concluded.
Nor is it clear how much money the IRFU would collect from any sale. Though it is understood there have been discussions around the distribution of monies and a share agreement has been reached between the six unions, the belief is that it is not an equal division of the amount accruing from the sale of the stake to CVC. France and England, for instance, can command television audience far outweighing the pulling power of their rivals in the Celtic nations and Italy as well as boasting a larger number of constituent clubs.
Whatever accrues, it will be welcomed in Lansdowne Road, IRFU chief executive Philip Browne in May having warned that its revenues had “fallen off a cliff”.
Browne, speaking on May 22, said: “If we lose the tailend of the 2020 Six Nations and we lose the autumn internationals and can't play those, that’s going to cost us €15-20m. If we play behind closed doors, and we can still play those matches and finish off the season and still have the autumn internationals, if we do that behind closed doors that costs us €10-15m.
"So even if we play behind closed doors it doesn't resolve the financial difficulty that we're going to be facing into. If we lose the Six Nations in 2021 you're talking about a €30m loss. If we have to play behind closed doors in Six Nations in 2021, we’ ll be losing around €16m in terms of gross revenues.”
Meanwhile, CJ Stander and Chris Cloete began training with the Munster squad as the third week of preparations for the resumption of Guinness PRO14 rugby on August 22 got underway on Monday.
The players spent the lockdown at their homes in South Africa but had their returns to Ireland delayed and their 14 days of self-isolation were not completed until last week.