Pro14 rugby is changing its name, adding more South African teams, and agreeing new broadcast deals, in the first sign of how private equity firm CVC Capital Partners aims to revamp the sport.
The buying group paid £120m for a 28 percent share In the tournament last year, it is one of a series of rugby deals as it seeks to reshape the global game by changing the way the sport is sold to fans, sponsors and broadcasters.
People familiar with the decision said the competition, an annual tournament featuring teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa, is being rebranded as the “United Rugby Championship”.
Those people said they also secured new TV deals to start the 2021/2022 season in September, including with BBC in the UK, RTE in Ireland and SuperSport in South Africa. The organizers will also launch a new global subscription streaming service for audiences.
Although the goal is for the majority of matches to be shown on free TV to reach the largest possible audience, the broadcast deals will help boost the competition’s annual revenue to £55m, compared to £25m last year.
However, the tournament may still struggle to secure new viewers and revenue. Interest in rugby is dominated by national competitions, such as the Six Nations Championship in Europe, the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup.
According to people close to the decision, the newly named United Rugby League will play fewer matches over the weekend when international matches are held and club stars represent their national teams.
Besides its stake in Pro14 CVC, it has also invested in Premier League Rugby and six countriesThe best European rugby national team championship.
Its plans for United Rugby indicate how CVC intends to act as a powerful intermediary between the disparate groups that run the sport in order to enhance the value of its investments.
The Luxembourg-based group, a former owner of Formula One and Moto GP, tends to take minority stakes in sports competitions, seeking commercial control in a way that would allow it to accumulate television rights for various competitions and sell them to broadcasters.
In addition to rugby, the acquisition group has also acquired a stake in the global governing body for volleyball and has recently held investment talks with companies including ATP and WTPand tennis tours for men and women, Italian Football LeagueAnd the American Basketball franchise San Antonio Tottenham.
The United Rugby Championship will expand from 14 to 16 teams. Two South African teams, the Southern Kings and the Panthers, have left the competition, but will be replaced by four of the country’s biggest: the Lions, the Storms, the Sharks and the Bull.
Over time, the South African Rugby Union, the state federation, will also become a contributor to the competition, bringing it closer to some of Europe’s leading unions.
The CVC team has also discussed investing in South African rugby and is engaged in talks to create the Club World Cup for the best rugby teams in the world. CVC’s recent influence over rugby has helped advance the conversation and a new global competition could be launched as early as 2024, according to people close to the discussions.