The Six Nations’ deal to sell a 14.3 per cent stake to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners has been hailed as a catalyst for growth in the game.
The five-year agreement with Six Nations Rugby Ltd, subject to regulatory approval and thought to be worth around £365million (€425 million), sees CVC increase its investment in rugby union after previous deals with the Gallagher Premiership and Guinness PRO14.
Organisers say the deal, which includes the autumn internationals, will generate investment in long-term projects to provide lasting benefits for the game.
Wales Rugby Union chief executive Steve Phillips said: “This is a pivotal moment in the history of the international game in Wales. Ultimately, this deal will be a catalyst for the growth of our game.
“It will directly improve the international tournaments we participate in, further engaging new and existing fans alike.
“Increased interest drives other opportunities both on and off the field. Indirectly the investment will in turn provide the foundations on which the whole game can flourish.”
The unions of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will still have a 85.7 per cent stake between them and retain sole responsibility for all sporting matters as well as the majority control of commercial decisions.
Ben Morel, chief executive of Six Nations Rugby, said: “This is a hugely positive development and I want to express my thanks to all parties involved.
“This external investment is an important validation of what Six Nations Rugby has achieved to date and is a key next step as we invest to grow the game on the world stage.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney says he anticipates a windfall of around £95m over the next five years which will allow the RFU to invest in the game and help offset a loss of £30-50m in the current financial year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “The RFU has benefited from the Government’s business rates holiday and the furlough scheme however we will not be the direct beneficiary of Government loans or grants – these will flow through us to the community game.
“We have undertaken significant restructuring to reduce our cost base. Despite this with 85 per cent of our revenue coming from hosting international matches at Twickenham, revenues have reduced by around £140m in the last year and we expect a loss of around £30-35m this financial year.
“Subject to the conclusion of the deal, our CVC capital investment priorities will be asset development in the community game and England Rugby activity.
“This could for example include club, ground and stadium development, data and digital investment and opportunities to further grow the women’s game.
“As a result of significant revenue losses, we will also apportion some CVC capital in the short term to pay down debt and rebuild reserves.”