Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson has welcomed a £20 million-plus injection into Murrayfield coffers thanks to a significant investment in the Guinness Pro14 by equity firm CVC, but warned that tough times lie ahead for rugby in this country.
In a frank media briefing yesterday, Dodson admitted there was a prospect that Scotland could play no international matches in front of paying spectators for the rest of the year and through to next year’s Six Nations, which he estimated would cost the union at least £40 million in lost revenue.
He said the CVC deal was worth “north of £20 million” to the SRU and is valued at around £120m to the Pro14 in total.
The private equity company has been actively pursuing shareholdings in rugby union for the past couple of years. They now hold a 28 per cent stake in the Pro14, which involves Scottish pro-teams Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, and teams from Wales, Ireland, Italy and South Africa.
The company, which had a tumultuous involvement with Formula 1 in 2016 and 2017, struck a deal for a 27 per cent holding in England’s Premiership Rugby Ltd in 2018.
CVC’s £300m bid for a stake in the Six Nations, which could threaten terrestrial TV coverage of the tournament, is on hold.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Dodson welcomed Scotland’s share of £20m-plus over an unspecified number of years, with the first slice already banked, but gave an honest assessment of the perils that lie ahead for the Scottish game.
He said: “We have to plan for the future the best we can. The less rugby played for a paid audience, not in front of our broadcasters puts us in a real bind.
“It’s going to be a difficult time if we don’t get the autumn games. It’s going to be very tough through the summer. We will have to work with a whole raft of people to try to make sure we are sustainable and in good shape when this is over and this investment helps.”
Scotland are due to host New Zealand, Japan and Argentina at BT Murrayfield in November. Dodson added: “By no means is it [CVC deal] the cure but it is a massive help in terms of confidence and cash.”
He re-iterated that the SRU was looking at an estimated loss of £12m if the November Test series doesn’t take place, which could rise to between £15-20m when the lack of Glasgow, Edinburgh games and grassroots activity is taken into consideration.
The Irish RFU gave a stark warning yesterday that it could run out of cash reserves in a matter of months and Dodson said: “We are all in the same sort of territory.
“With no international games we will manage to get through as best as we can through our banks, our supporters and our sponsors. We will get through, even if we come out different.
“Our aim going along is to make sure we get our arms round this problem. We know what the trigger points will be and at the moment there are several options. I can assure you this, we are working night and day to make sure we are across this and doing this sensibly and responsibly.”
With most players and SRU staff beyond key executives currently on furlough, Dodson said the £20m from CVC was not enough to ease the union out of that scenario.
“It helps enormously, gives confidence to our banks, but it’s not a cure,” he said. “If this goes into next year it could be a £40m loss. Until we get our arms around exactly how much this is going to cost the union in lost income we are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.
“We are delighted with this investment, but by no means are we underestimating the challenges ahead of us.”
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