Despite its reputation as a sport that lends itself to those in society who are a little more well off than others - 54 per cent of England's 2019 Six Nations squad went to private school - rugby union is not a mega money maker. The need to generate greater income has been well-publicised but hasn't been without its critics as many fear the selling of the sport's soul.
CVC Capital Partners is a name that many fans will already be aware of, having already financially backed the Gallagher Premiership, entered into talks to support the Guinness Pro14 in the same way and failed to couple with World Rugby to support a world league. The worry now is that they're within reaching distance of a stake in one of the sport's oldest and most admired competitions.
It's a deal that would unlock many a door for CVC. In return for the boost in funding, they would gain a say in the way the competition is run as well as impacting the wider rugby calendar - something which has played on the mind of those in the sport for a while. Talks about an extended schedule have been rattling around for some time, and this move takes that a step closer.
The quote below is from World Rugby's chief executive Brett Gosper, who is clearly concerned about CVC acquiring a controlling stake in the tournament despite previously negotiating with the firm. While the sport needs financial backing, it is the interest of the game and its professionals that must come before any element of money-making, which is what has historically stymied financial investment. In a sport where safety is paramount, there is only so much that can be done to activate and maximise partnerships, and whether or not CVC will prioritise that is of prime concern.
“When you have a high-funding commercial owner of the sport that isn’t the governing body then certain calls can be made which we might think aren’t in the interests of the sport’s growth, player welfare or other areas. We would want to make sure things are being done for the right reasons and that our influence wasn’t usurped.”