Rugby union could be set for a major post-pandemic shake-up with the Six Nations moving to April and the launch of a new European League. Talks between the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship nations over an alignment of the northern and southern hemisphere seasons have made long overdue progress while the prospect of big changes at club level has grown after CVC bought a stake in the Pro14.
The £115m deal means the venture capitalists now own minority shareholdings in both the Premiership and the Pro14 which gives them the leverage to merge the leagues into one with wider appeal to broadcasters.
Both developments could be highly significant for the future shape of the game when it is eventually able to restart.
The Six Nations and the southern hemisphere SANZAAR nations issued a joint statement yesterday committing to pushing on with negotiations that would see the Six Nations move from its current winter slot into March and April. The northern hemisphere summer tours could also be switched to the autumn.
“A further consultation process will commence as all parties work towards an aligned global calendar that can deliver a clear and coherent narrative,” read the statement.
“The Nations, together with other key stakeholders, remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path.”
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CVC’s attempt to buy a £300m stake in the Six Nations is currently on hold because of the crisis but the company have managed to sign off their purchase of a 28 per stake in the Pro14.
In the short term their investment will help to alleviate financial problems caused by the shutdown in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy who become members of Celtic Rugby as part of the deal. South Africa, who also have two provinces in Pro14, will not benefit from the arrangement.
“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,” said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.