Premiership: Majority share deal ‘not a preferred option’ despite investment interest


Majority investment deal is not a preferred option for Premiership clubs – chairman

The £275m sale of a majority share in the Premiership to a private equity firm is “not a preferred option”, member clubs have unanimously agreed.

CVC Capital Partners sought a 51% share but Premiership chairman Ian Ritchie said clubs preferred a minority stake.

Ritchie says they will explore outside investment “as a matter of urgency” and are happy to work with a partner.

“The good thing for us is clearly there’s a great interest in a fantastic product,” Ritchie told BBC Sport.

“We’re very interested to explore areas of investment to grow the game and the league even further.

“But, it’s fair to say, the majority control is not the preferred option but we would look at a variety of investment opportunities.”

A link-up with the Rugby Football Union and a unified set-up was not considered likely by clubs – and Ritchie confirmed that no contact had been made.

“We’ve not had any proposition or proposal from the RFU,” he said. “If something comes in, like any grown up, we’d look at it. We have had several [expressions of interest].

“It is not appropriate to show who they are but what it does show is the value of the league, potentially the interest in it, because it’s a good proposition.”

‘It’s a matter of valuation and price’

Ritchie was keen to point out that the notion of investment from CVC had not been rejected outright, only the detail of this particular bid.

The majority of clubs are keen for investment to help cope with the financial losses that almost all have suffered in recent years as increasing revenues have been offset by player-wage inflation.

One of the sticking points with the bid from CVC, who were former owners of F1 before selling the motorsport business for £8bn, was the distance between their offer and the potential value of the business.

BBC Sport understands that Bath owner Bruce Craig was against accepting the offer, as it falls short of his £800m valuation of the Premiership business.

Revenue from international television deals, new sponsorship and increased domestic television audiences were all reported at the west London meeting.

“It’s a matter of valuation and price, and we have certain views about that as well,” continued Ritchie.

“Conceptually with majority control we felt that our owners – the clubs – have invested a huge amount themselves into the game over the few years and that therefore a minority stake is a better option to reflect that.

“And we all know how best to manage the league and deal with that, so of course you want synergies, but I think the minority route is probably a better one.

“If we can find somebody who brings a good partnership and brings finance or a strategic advantage, we would look at that like any business.”