CVC are driving a hard bargain regarding their £300m investment in the Six Nations. The deal reportedly hinges upon the unions agreeing to a ‘pandemic clause’ that would allow CVC to withhold financial contributions should games be cancelled in the event of a second wave.
Should the six unions reject this, The Guardian is reporting that CVC will look to reduce its valuation of the investment to £2o0m. The investors are doing, then, what investors do: shrewdly protecting their own interests, and capitalising on a chaotic and uncertain economic climate. It is thought that the six unions will lose up to £200m in revenue between them this year. CVC knows this, and are tailoring their negotiating strategy accordingly.
‘CVC can try to capitalise on the situation and drive a hard bargain, but the flipside is they are trying to protect their investment,’ Jake Calvert, an associate at Cooke, Young and Keidan LLP, told The Guardian.
‘There is a recognition across the board that Covid-19 is not captured in a contract and the money people have the power. Rugby union has been badly hit and a cash injection is needed to offset losses. The unions have more to lose than CVC if they walk away and I think a deal will be made. There is so much uncertainty at the moment that I do not see many other options on the table.’
Calvert’s words are instructive, and they speak to a sport that is increasingly desperate for fresh investment. ‘The likes of CVC make their money by capitalising on weakness and they appear to be sensing an opportunity,’ the associate went on. ‘The power lies with those able to inject cash, which everyone needs now.’
This, I suppose, is the sad reality of modern sport. It is a sad reality that has been laid bare by the current absence of fans from stadiums. That sport is about money. That it is about TV rights. That it is about investment and marketability. Rugby is no exception.
Of course, rugby needs money. International rugby – and the six nations more than most – is run by an old guard of well-paid union bosses presiding over cash-strapped organisations with seemingly little vision for the future of the game. CVC is looking for a more efficient and successful product. It sees potential, and is investing accordingly.
The potentially centralising impact of CVC investment in the European game – Premiership Rugby, Pro14 and now the Six Nations – will be an interesting phenomenon to witness. So is the increasing noise surrounding South African involvement. For now, though, rugby holds very few cards. It has left itself beholden to money, and, at present, it is CVC that have the money.
But CVC, it should be remembered, are not an idealistic organisation. They are entirely unbothered by notions of what is ‘good for the game.’ They are investors. They are engaged in rugby so long as aligns with their own interests. For me, that is the takeaway from the current ‘pandemic clause’ saga, and it is one we would all do well not to forget.
Written by Joe Ronan.