World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has expressed fear for the sport’s future in light of CVC Capital Partners’ proposed investment into the Six Nations.
Former Formula One investors CVC have already bought stakes in the English Premiership and the Pro14, and the private equity firm is now poised to complete the purchase of a 15 per cent stake in the Six Nations.
World Rugby mothballed its controversial Nations League project in June, after failing to gather the support to push through plans for a world league.
The Six Nations’ impending deal with CVC represents a further blow to global governing body World Rugby’s authority, leaving Gosper to lament another loss of control for the sport’s ruling organisation.
“I’d have to say we don’t know enough about the ins and outs of that deal. It’s been shrouded, so we can’t say too much at this stage and we don’t know if it will be good or bad,” Gosper said at the official launch press conference of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Tokyo.
“Certainly as big an investor in the sport as a private equity firm like CVC will create influence, and that’s something that in some areas could concern us.
“So it’s important we understand from CVC exactly what their medium to long-term plans are. So it’s a bit early to evaluate.
“The areas concerning you are that with a high-funding commercial owner of the sport that isn’t the governing body then certain calls might be made that aren’t in the interests of growth or perhaps player-welfare.
“We want to make sure it’s for the right reasons. Many of our biggest members have welcomed this increased funding, and so we can only recognise it as positive.
“But we just have a couple of watch-outs and concerns and I’m sure we’ll have a chance to discuss those with the Six Nations. So let’s be optimistic.”
Leading global stars previously hit out at World Rugby’s Nations Championship plans due to fears more matches would further threaten player-welfare.
World Rugby had wanted the winners of the Six Nations and the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship to meet in play-offs to determine the globe’s top Test team.
But the Six Nations’ move to engage CVC as a new investor ultimately killed off any chances of World Rugby’s plans coming to fruition.
World Rugby chief executive Gosper has now revealed he met with CVC during discussions over funding for the Nations Championship, but the governing body quickly chose not to partner with any equity firm.
“So yes we have met with CVC, and the conversations we were having around the World League and so on,” Gosper said.
“CVC was one contender. Of course CVC’s recent positions taken in the game, it would be madness for us not to be in some source of communication with them.
“In the interests of the game we would have discussions with them. So that’s something that can be envisaged.
“There are lots of elements of commonality, even if there are some divergences.
“We probably come at it from a different angle but it’s good that we all come together and ensure what we’re doing is for the good of the sport.”