Rugby is the next sport threatening to sell its birthright

I can’t believe that Premiership Rugby is seriously considering an offer from CVC, a Private Equity firm (CVC Capital eyes £275m bid for Premiership Rugby). Premiership Rugby is a mutual, owned by its 13 member clubs. Presumably these clubs exist to win rugby matches and, working together, to make rugby an exciting and competitive sport in the interests of players, fans and communities today and tomorrow.

 

Do they think that CVC would have same priorities? Was that motor racing’s experience? Look at the experience of football. Even without PE ownership, each year sees a further shift of priorities away from fans and the game as a live spectator sport. In 2017 Sky even demanded the scheduling of an Arsenal vs Liverpool game on the evening of Christmas Eve, finishing long after the last trains had stopped running. The Spanish League are seriously threatening to make clubs play games in the USA!

 

More and more live games are now broadcast showing empty terraces.

 

Nothing wrong with TV deals. They widen interest in the sport. But who is calling the shots? Is it the PE companies motivated by capital gain and profitability over the limited lifetime of their investment or is it the clubs and their fans and neighbourhoods, balancing success today with the future health of the game?

 

There is a growing gap between business and the public. Nowhere is the gap as stark as it is in major sport.We need to align ownership of business with the wider interests of its stakeholders and we need boards and investors to stick to stewardship principles. Premiership rugby clubs please note.

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