Eddie O’Sullivan is worried about the long-term health of rugby in Ireland due to the imminent deal between the Six Nations and CVC Capital Partners.
The private equity firm are set to acquire 14.5% of the commercial rights for the Six Nations Championship, having already taken a 28% stake in the Pro14 and a 27% stake in Premiership Rugby.
The deal is reported to be worth €408 million in total and will see the IRFU receive an estimated €56 million, a timely financial boost for the union during these difficult times.
Just 20 days.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 17, 2021
While the former Ireland coach noted that the deal is certainly a positive for the sport at the moment, he did have reservations over what it could mean moving forward.
“What they’re all happy about at the moment is they’re going to get a huge cash injection. It looks like the IRFU are in line to get a good chunk of change out of this. It’s badly needed at the moment. So, in the short-term it’s a plus.
“But the big question with this when the dust settles is what are the long-term effects?
“This money is needed now but it’ll probably be spent on current expenditure. The danger is that rugby will be looking for investors in three or four years time and what you could have is control of rugby tournaments going to capitalists.
“Then do we lose control of the game? CVC are in this for profit. It’s a big debate. But for the moment, we’re happy to get the money and keep the ship afloat,” O’Sullivan told RTE‘s Saturday Sport.
‘If it’s behind a paywall we know what happens’
One of the major fears for the Six Nations is that the tournament will go behind a paywall, as the Formula 1 did after CVC’s investment in the competition.
Such a move would be financially beneficial for the involved unions, at least a first, but could seriously harm the popularity of the sport in the long-term.
“These investors are looking at it in terms of maximising their investment. We’re talking about expanding the game globally, making it accessible to the masses, trying to ring-fence tournaments.
“But at the end of the day, if it’s behind a paywall, we know what happens there.
“There was a lot of concern almost a year ago when this was announced but the pandemic has overtaken everything, in terms of trying to survive financially.
“But I would be worried in the long-term about where rugby’s soul is going,” O’Sullivan commented.