Gareth Davies: WRU chairman says Pro14 investment boosts league viability

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WRU chairman Gareth Davies says moving the Six Nations is not a big issue

Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies says new Pro14 investment will help short-term financial problems.

Pro14 have sold a 28% stake in the league to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners (CVC).

"If they had withdrawn from the arrangement it would have left us in a difficult financial position short-term," said Davies.

"It would have thrown (up) questions about the validity and sustainability of the Pro14."

Davies added: "The whole landscape has changed from what perhaps the CVC money looked like three months ago, when it was a bit of an icing on the cake.

"Now it's going to be partly there to plug holes that have appeared, are appearing and will appear moving forward.

"The CVC money is welcome in assisting the professional game getting out of this predicament we are currently in. To get such an organisation to stay there at the table and deliver the deal is positive news."

The deal still went ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic and will bring major investment, believed to be about £120m, that will benefit the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and now Italian Rugby Unions that form Celtic Rugby DAC, which runs the league.

The Unions will retain the 72% majority share of the tournament. The investment will be distributed as an equal share across all four partners with unions receiving £30m each.

The Professional Rugby Board (PRB) is a combination of WRU and regional representatives that run the professional game in Wales.

"The money will be spent wisely I hope," said Davies.

"The PRB will initially work on business plans and funding arrangements which then comes to the board for approval. They work hand in glove.

Leinster beat Glasgow in the 2019 Pro14 final
Leinster beat Glasgow in the 2019 Pro14 final

Testing times

The short-term finances will involve budgeting for financial costs when rugby returns following the Covid-19 pandemic including coronavirus testing at regions for players and staff.

The Pro14 hopes to return to play on 22 August behind closed doors matches beginning with local derbies involving sides from same nations.

Training is line to restart at the beginning of July with testing an integral part of the return to play protocol plans and will form a bulk of the expense.

"All the costs of return to play will be funded by the game," said Davies.

"That's the union's responsibility and there are different budget areas where we can ensure that's the case.

"The money will come out of two buckets. There is the community fund and a professional fund.

"The PRB runs the professional game and that will have to be catered for whatever is decided with the health protection moving forward.

"We also have to be mindful of the community game and have appropriate measures with the return to play."

Davies insists the return to play protocols will be carefully managed.

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"It is about ensuring players, coaches and staff are confident they are not putting their health in jeopardy," said Davies.

"That is the primary requirement and hopefully everything flows positively from there.

"Players are probably suffering from a bit of cabin fever, desperate to get out there to restore their fitness, mix with their colleagues.

"These guys are with a gang of people most days of the week. It's been a big cultural and social change for them.

"The second area is nervousness of getting back into contact with people. What does it mean if their wives or girlfriends are expecting children, or not being able to see elderly parents?

"There are challenges in all this. That's come through in football as well. There has been general support for a return but there has been the odd doubt expressed by some top players.

"No doubt we'll get that in rugby. Some people will be nervous about coming back. That's why it's important we have a programme of careful monitoring, whatever that entails, which focuses on health and safety."

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