Bristol Bears owner Steve Lansdowne has become the first Premiership figure to express his dismay at CVC Capital Partners’ impact on the competition.
December 2018 marked the beginning of “a new era for English professional club rugby” when it was announced that Premiership Rugby had finalized a £200 million deal for a minority stake worth around 27%.
Almost four years on, though, Lansdowne laments the economic landscape of the competition as Wasps and Worcester Warriors battle for survival. His biggest disappointment is said to lie with the fact that commercial and broadcast revenues have not received the boost that was initially expected.
“Covid has obviously been a big factor in recent days,” Lansdowne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It has probably exacerbated the problem. There just isn’t enough money in the game, the answer. All clubs generate their income through ticket sales, central revenue and merchandising revenue.
“Covid and the lack of games have seen a decline in core revenue in recent years. Matchday revenue has clearly fallen off a cliff with Covid and commercial revenue has not picked up.
“We had an agreement with CVC but, to date, it has been, to be honest, a bit disappointing. But hopefully we will see it improve in the future.
‘Rugby is kind of its own worst enemy’
Lansdown, who co-founded a financial services firm and is believed to be worth more than £1.2 billion, is believed to be owed around £50m by Bristol. However, the money is earmarked for infrastructure and “building a team to compete at the highest level”.
He explained that there were plans to “reduce” his contribution over the years but called for Premiership Rugby to improve its “offer” to increase commercial income and attract more investors.
“They are, like many businesses in the UK and around the world, post-pandemic,” Lansdowne said. “Rugby, in a way, is its own worst enemy. It’s a fantastic game. It attracts great fans, great fans, but it’s a question of getting revenue in the business.
“For people to invest in it, it’s a passion. It’s not something you point to and say you get a return on your money, so you have to go into it with your eyes open. [knowing] That it’s going to be a bit of a black hole for a time. That’s the difficulty.”
“PRL really needs to focus on generating commercial revenue or new revenue, and improving the offering that we put out there to attract other investors into the game,” he added.
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