A British League featuring the long overdue revival of Anglo-Welsh competition will be ‘up and running in two years’, according to a leading club.
The prediction comes with the PRO14 finalising negotiations for the sale of a 27 per cent share worth £120m to CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm whose £500m offer for the commercial rights of the Six Nations is under consideration.
The former owners of Formula One and Moto GP have completed a similar deal with the Gallagher Premiership for £275m understood to be worth £13.5m to each of the 13 clubs who own Premier Rugby Ltd.
“A British League will happen in two years’ time,’’ a club chairman told The Rugby Paper on condition of anonymity. “It will happen because it is the best outcome for the game in the four home countries and for CVC.
“It will appeal to the Welsh regions in particular and the Premiership clubs. Not one is profitable with the exception of the Exeter Chiefs and a British league will go a long way towards providing stability.
“In Wales it will be seen as the only opportunity to be sustainable. Their regions lost between £5m-£6m last year. They’ve been kept going by the generosity of a few backers and the danger is they will get even fewer unless something radical is done.
“Fixtures like Cardiff Blues against Bristol, Dragons against Gloucester, Ospreys against Bath and Scarlets against Saracens will stop the downward spiral of attendances in Wales.
“Commercially, they could be as much as 50 per cent better off. It will be important to have all four Irish provinces on board but, if necessary, we will go ahead and do it without them.’’
Cardiff and Swansea did exactly that 21 years ago, rebels with a cause who joined the English Premiership for one season in defiance of the WRU following the collapse of an Anglo-Welsh League.
The Professional Game Board, a joint Union-regions body set up to oversee the top level of Welsh rugby, says its members “share equal responsibility and have the power and authority to make dynamic changes wherever necessary”.
If the predictions come true, a British and Irish League of 24 teams split into two sections will change the landscape of the game further afield by raising questions over the future of Europe’s annual tournaments, the Champions’ Cup and Challenge Cup, in their current form.
“One of the aims and objectives behind CVC’s entry into rugby is to create a British League,’’ one of the sport’s powerbrokers told The Rugby Paper. “That would be seen by many as being like the European Cup without the French.
“The Heineken Cup as we know it could be drastically affected.
“The majority of the Top 14 in France won’t lose any sleep over that because most of their club owners don’t like either European competition.’’
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