It isn't just the world rugby championship threatened by CVC's £500 million bid to buy 30 per cent of the Six Nations.

Rugby itself could be in danger of being dismembered. Perhaps more accurately, the sport could face the long, slow death of any rugby nation — including little old New Zealand — outside an even more moneyed-up northern clique.

There's an old Mark Twain quote which symbolises this situation. A young missionary went out to shed the light of Christianity to cannibals. "They listened to everything he had to say," said Twain, "and then they et [ate] him."


For the cannibals, read CVC, often referred to as a "vulture" fund, although that might be a trifle unkind (vulture capitalists descend on a company in poor health, tart it up and then sell for a profit). For the missionary, read rugby — or the Southern Hemisphere souls trying to spread the gospel that world rugby won't be world rugby if they are eaten — or, rather, starved to death.

If accepted, the CVC bid would also effectively kill off the proposed Nations Championship, which appears far more as rugby's saviour than was first supposed.

Even before we get into how CVC have filed their teeth into sharp points in recent years, the simple fact is that the injection of such massive CVC funds into the Six Nations would (a) harden the resolve of the existing six nations not to let anyone else play with their ball and (b) increase already tempting salaries paid to Southern Hemisphere players and the player drain.

Already South Africa has relaxed its 30-cap rule (only those with 30 caps were eligible for Springbok selection if they play in Europe or Japan). Now all who play overseas will be eligible for the Boks. South Africa is giving "top-up" payments to 75 top players and enforcing their test availability from clubs.

Good luck with that. The bottom line, however, is that we may soon see a Bok team chosen entirely from players based overseas. That will provoke an "I told you so" from those who predict an All Blacks future of similar dimensions and curses from those alarmed at the trend but who have previously thought the lure of the All Blacks jersey would suffice. It still might — but CVC's intervention will not help (except for the Six Nations teams for whom the windfall has been estimated at £100m each).

World Rugby's choice? Take the CVC/Six Nations money, risk the financial purse strings being pulled by non-rugby capitalists and let the south go, well, south. Alternatively, try to protect the sport, attempting to spread the game with the Nations Championship, keeping some of the former amateur ethos alive and distributing funds more evenly.

It seems a simple choice but World Rugby has to find a way to get stubborn Six Nations types — said to be Scotland and Ireland — to agree to Nations Championship promotion-relegation. Let's see, promotion-relegation or £100m? Hmmm.

It must be said that the pendulum has swung back towards the Nations Championship, with World Rugby's assurance that it will reap £5 billion over 12 years for member countries, revitalising and re-ordering the game into a truly global focus.


It may be just as well. CVC have not endeared themselves when it comes to their stewardship in sport, though they are very good at profiting from it, as their time as owners of Formula 1 motor racing showed.

One team official accused CVC of "raping the sport" during CVC's 2006-17 ownership of F1. Bob Fernley of Force India said: "All their actions have been taken to extract as much money from the sport as possible and put as little in as possible."

According to the Guardian, CVC paid £1.4b for its majority stake in F1, making an estimated £3.5b over the next decade. In 2014, CVC reportedly took in £347m from a turnover of £1.4b, at that point representing a return on investment of 350 per cent.

They took the racing outside traditional European circuits, pushing some famous old tracks close to bankruptcy. As they wrung every last cent out of teams and governments, they took F1 from free-to-air TV to a pay-per-view deal worth £600m. When they sold, F1 was worth £8b.

But world TV viewing figures had slipped, giving rise to fears the sport was forfeiting new audiences. Critics said they took the short-term gain but neglected the sport's future.

That, then, is the new field rugby might have to play on if it goes the CVC route. Bit worrying, isn't it?

World Rugby have been at pains to say no deal has been done yet — but that cash must be tempting.

As must CVC's full name. No, the word "vulture" does not figure, oddly enough. On the website, CVC stands for "Consistent Value Creation".