Sport PRO14

Friday 24 January 2020

IRFU set for €40m windfall as CVC deal to buy PRO14 stake gets the green light

The PRO14 are set to sell a stake in the competition to private equity firm CVC. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
The PRO14 are set to sell a stake in the competition to private equity firm CVC. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Irish regulators have given the green light to a deal that will see the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) scoop around €40m from the sale of part of its stake in Celtic Rugby DAC, which runs the PRO14 club competition.

However, the buyer, British private equity firm CVC, which already owns a stake in the English rugby premiership as well as in Formula One, has been warned that it must alert competition authorities if it goes on add a stake in the Six Nations to its portfolio, after media reports of a possible tie-up.

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CVC is buying a 27pc stake in Celtic Rugby DAC for £120m (€140) from current owners, the Irish, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions and runs the PRO14 competition involving fourteen rugby clubs; two from Scotland, two from South Africa, two from Italy, four from Wales and four from Ireland. Selling their stakes will mean windfalls for the Irish, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions.

Celtic Rugby DAC is an Irish company, so the deal was investigated by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in Ireland to assess whether it created a risk of any substantial lessening of competition.

“During the course of this investigation, the CCPC became aware of media reports of a possible investment by CVC Funds in the Six Nations Championship which raised potential competition concerns regarding the likely competitive impact of the proposed transaction in the event of such investment,” the CCPC said.

In response to these concerns, CVC has made commitments that if any entity it backs does enter a legally binding agreement to acquire control over the commercial activities of the Six Nations Championship, it will voluntarily notify that transaction to the CCPC- even of the deal would not meet the usual threshold for alerting the regulator.

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