England and France's financial demands divide Six Nations Unions
They were in the vanguard when the old ERC European Cup was disbanded in 2014 in favour of the EPCR Champions Cup, and now they are sabre-rattling again, demanding more of a financial share-out from the Six Nations to buy the support of their all-powerful clubs.
According to a report in the Wednesday edition of the UK Guardian newspaper, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy have been left to question the real value of offers from four investment companies for a minority shareholder stake in the Six Nations.
Upwards of 27 percent equity would be given up in the business, allowing the successful bidder take over the commercial arm of the tournament and likely spelling the end of the Six Nations being exclusively shown on free-to-air TV in the half-dozen participating countries.
The demand by England and France for a greater share of potential revenue for their clubs has created unease in the other four countries as they are concerned it would potentially leave them more vulnerable when trying to hold onto their best players in a market where better salaries are generally available in the Premiership and Top 14.
The Guardian claimed that the Rugby Football Union was called on at a recent meeting to show some leadership due to Premiership Rugby becoming increasingly bullish after its equity deal with CVC.
Apparently, the RFU has been considering contingency plans should it fail to reach agreement with its clubs over the international calendar. One alternative would even see newly formed English regional teams entering the PRO14 with players centrally contracted.
As it stands, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy would allegedly gain more financially from World Rugby’s plan to set up a Nations Championship from 2022.
However, the sticking point here is that Ireland, Scotland and Italy oppose the insistence on relegation being introduced to the Six Nations and to the Rugby Championship even though it could take the form of a play-off and a parachute payment would be made.
World Rugby met the leading unions, together with Fiji and Japan, in Dublin last week and initially gave them two weeks to sign a due diligence agreement. That deadline has since been put back until April 5. Under the plan there would be no involvement of private investment companies and the Six Nations would remain on free-to-air television.