Rugby union’s Pro14 has sold a minority of its shareholding to privacy equity firm CVC Capital Partners, giving roughly £120m to the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Italian rugby federations that form the Celtic Rugby DAC.

As part of the agreement, CVC has acquired 28 per cent of Pro14 Rugby from Celtic Rugby DAC, with the latter firm retaining a 72 per cent majority share. Moreover, Italy’s rugby union federation, the FIR, will officially become a member of Celtic Rugby DAC in order to receive a share of the investment.

This is not the first time CVC has invested in rugby union after acquiring a 27% stake in Premiership Rugby in 2018, valued at an estimated £200m.

Martin Anayi, CEO of Pro14 Rugby, stated: “CVC’s show of faith has been impressive and is in keeping with their proven track record of success when it comes to sports investment, including Formula 1, Moto GP and Premiership Rugby. This partnership allows all of our stakeholders to plan for a sustainable period of growth, which will benefit the fans, the players and the game.

“We are very pleased to partner with CVC, who saw us as an ambitious, fast paced and innovative organisation, situated across a number of core rugby nations that can deliver an increasing impact.”

The Pro14 tournament currently covers five countries and 14 clubs across Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and South Africa. Prior to Italy’s inclusion the Celtic DAC was owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), with the South African Rugby Union having members on the company’s board. 

Dominic McKay, Chairman of Celtic Rugby DAC and Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Rugby, added: “I am delighted that we have managed to welcome CVC into the Guinness PRO14 as our partner. As a Board, we have been ambitious in our outlook and have significantly developed the league in recent years. One of our key goals was to secure a strategic partner to help accelerate our plans and CVC bring a wealth of experience and great expertise in this regard.

“Sport, like all of society, is dealing with major challenges currently that we could not have imagined just a few months ago, and it is testament to the strength of our partnership with CVC that they have committed to the game of rugby in such a significant way.”

Anayi will continue with his role as Pro14 CEO, with the unions also remaining independently responsible for the sporting and regulatory elements of the league. Plans will undoubtedly shift on to how the competition will conclude its 2019/20 campaign which was suspended due to the global health pandemic. As of right now the Pro14 is planning to resume on 22 August with the remaining games to be played behind closed doors.