Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips has welcomed the CVC Capital Partners Fund VII (CVC) investment in the Guinness PRO14, announced this morning.
Under this agreement CVC will acquire a 28-per-cent share of PRO14 Rugby from Celtic Rugby DAC and the Unions will retain the 72-per-cent majority share.
Celtic Rugby DAC is the organisation responsible for running and operating the Guinness PRO14 Rugby Championship and is owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
The partnership will allow both PRO14 Rugby and the Irish, Italian, Scottish & Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport, both professional and amateur, to achieve its potential over the long term.
A portion of the investment will also be held centrally at PRO14 Rugby, to invest in further capabilities for the business and in upgrading league operations in line with its growth ambitions.
"Celtic Rugby has been working hard on this partnership for a considerable amount of time, it is to the credit of everyone involved that the deal is now over the line and we look forward to a sea change in the ability of the PRO14 to realise its full potential," said Phillips.
"CVC’s belief in our sport is clear, their commitment is hugely encouraging and this investment is great news for our teams and for Welsh rugby as a whole, although we are under no illusions that COVID has and will continue to have a significant impact on our organisation for some time
"The Guinness PRO14 is a cross-border competition which brings unique challenges in the current climate, but this is a ringing endorsement for the recent evolution of the competition."
As part of the agreement, the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR), will also become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC, and receive a share of the investment.
Martin Anayi, CEO, will continue to lead the management team at PRO14 Rugby, working closely with CVC and the unions on execution of the commercial plan, and Anayi and the Unions will remain independently responsible for the sporting and regulatory elements of the league, via the Sporting & Regulatory Committee.
In the past four years, the Guinness PRO14 has performed well both on and off the field; doubling distributions to clubs and facilitating record investment back into the sport from the league. This has been recognised by CVC, who share PRO14 Rugby’s vision for the long-term potential of the league.
CVC was selected by PRO14 Rugby and the Unions as their partner due to their extensive experience of prior CVC funds investing in multiple sports businesses, such as Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby.
Dominic McKay, Chair of Celtic Rugby DAC and Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Rugby, said: "Right now, we are all dealing with opportunities and challenges that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and the fact that CVC is committed to the game of rugby is a welcome vote of confidence in the future of the sport and the Guinness PRO14 as an international competition. Completing this partnership with CVC is testament to the hard work invested by many people who worked to deliver a future vision for PRO14 and enable it to realise its commercial value in the global sports market. Alongside my colleagues at the Irish, Italian and Welsh rugby unions I would like to welcome CVC to the Guinness PRO14."
Anayi, CEO of PRO14 Rugby, added: "CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment, including Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby. This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the game, the players and our fans.
"We are very pleased to partner with CVC, who saw us as an ambitious, fast paced and innovative organisation, situated across a number of core rugby nations that can deliver an increasing impact.
"We have been clear that we believe the Guinness PRO14 is a world-class club rugby league, that is still in its growth phase and we are confident that it will become a major standard bearer in our sport. We are excited that CVC clearly shares that ambition and we look forward to working with them to deliver on the league’s promise in the years ahead."