CVC cash will be ‘transformational’ for Scottish rugby and will be used to upgrade Murrayfield, strengthen pro teams and boost community game, says Mark Dodson

The investment in the Six Nations by CVC Capital Partners has the potential to have a transformational impact on the future of Scottish rugby, according to Mark Dodson.

SRU chief Mark Dodson says the CVC cash can be 'absolutely transformational' for Scottish rugby. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS
SRU chief Mark Dodson says the CVC cash can be 'absolutely transformational' for Scottish rugby. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS

The private equity firm is understood to be close to buying 14.5 per cent of the commercial rights in the tournament as part of a five-year agreement.

The value of the deal is estimated at around £350 million, with Scotland’s share reckoned to be worth £50m.

Dodson, the SRU chief executive, says the cash can define the Union’s future but must be used wisely. He envisages using it to upgrade Murrayfield, keep the pro teams competitive, invest in community rugby and “future-proof” the sport in Scotland.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is close to buying a 14.5 per cent stake in the Six Nations. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

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The impact on the Six Nations will also be significant and could see the tournament move from terrestrial television to pay-TV, although that is by no means guaranteed, according to Dodson.

What is certain is that the cash will be hungrily gobbled up by unions starved of income due to the absence of supporters from this year’s tournament.

From that point of view, the CVC deal really will be a game-changer. The private equity firm has already invested in the Guinness Pro14, helping the SRU and other unions survive a year of Covid, but the Six Nations investment is on another level entirely.

“They’ll buy a percentage of the tournament,” confirmed Dodson. “Our percentage will come to the SRU, and the rest will be split among the other unions at the same time. The payment will be made at a point in time when the deal closes.

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The Six Nations television deal is up for renewal but Mark Dodson insists terrestrial TV could still be involved. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

“Would I call it transformational? I would say so. We did the deal with Pro14, and if the deal on the Six Nations comes through, it will be absolutely transformational for the union. That’s why we have to be very careful about how the money is spent. It has to be spent on things that will future-proof the game.

“It will be across the whole business: the community game, the facilities of the community game, BT Murrayfield itself – it’s a massive stadium, costs a lot of money and always needs to be renewed and improved.

“If you look at the comparator set - Twickenham, the Principality, the Aviva, the Stade de France - these are terrific stadiums. And some of the football stadiums that have been built as well. We’ve got some catching up to do.

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“There’s also a look at what we need to do to restart rugby, how we make sure the pro teams stay competitive. There will be a lot of mouths to feed, but it will be a nice problem to have.

“How we spend this money will define the union’s future, to some extent. If you spend it badly, it’s frittered away or there are no outcomes to the expenditure, then more fool us.

“We’ve got to make sure we spend it in the most appropriate way and in a way that takes Scottish rugby forward as a whole, not just one part.”

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It has been assumed that this year’s Six Nations will be the last to be shown on free-to-air television. Matches have been shared by BBC and ITV for the last six seasons after the terrestrial heavyweights clubbed together to stave off satellite and cable broadcasters including Sky Sports.

That deal expires at the conclusion of the 2021 Championship and the contract is out for tender, with pay-TV operators ready to flash the cash.

The Autumn Nations Cup, staged at short notice last year, was broadcast mainly on Amazon Prime Video but some games were shown on Channel 4 and Dodson says it would be wrong to write off terrestrial TV.

“There’s a bit of supposition going on there,” said the SRU chief. “If you look at the tender that will go out, I think we’ll be really, really happy. We’ve got interest from everybody: terrestrial, traditional pay-TV, and a wider new group of broadcasters. People from right across the spectrum are interested and we’re in a very good place.

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“I’m optimistic and I don’t necessarily think that going behind a paywall is the likely favoured option. We have to wait and see what happens, look at how not only the money comes through but also what the coverage looks like and how accessible it is.

“Terrestrial TV gives us an incredible reach that is hard to achieve elsewhere. But equally, we’ve now got people who are prepared to pay material amounts of money for what is the best rugby tournament in the world.

“Despite Covid, despite all the issues we’ve had, we’ve got huge amounts of interest in our game.”

Dodson acknowledged it had been a tricky season for the Pro14, with the two Scottish clubs hampered by being without their international players for the vast majority of the campaign.

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Danny Wilson, the Glasgow Warriors coach, pointed out recently that scrum-half Ali Price had played only three times for his club this season due to his Scotland commitments.

The unique circumstances brought on by the pandemic contributed to this but Dodson knows more needs to be done to bolster the Pro14 and is still hopeful the addition of the four South African Super Rugby franchises will happen.

“The league is getting more and more importance in its own right and it’s going to become more and more of a commercial force,” he insisted. “We have to find ways to free up more weeks, whether that’s through a conference system or by not overlapping [with Test matches].

“You’ll find there will be less overlap going forward and the competition will grow. If Pro16 happens, when you get high quality South African franchises bringing over players involved in a world champion side, it will have a massive effect, both commercially and in a sporting sense.”

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Dodson played down suggestions that the Argentine side Jaguares might also join the league, and base themselves in Spain.

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