Premiership chief plays down takeover talk

London (AFP) –


Premiership chairman Ian Ritchie says allowing a takeover of English rugby's top tier is "not the preferred option", but he admitted the cash-strapped league is looking for investment.

Former Formula One owners CVC Capital Partners are believed to have expressed interest in buying a £275 million ($352 million, 309 million euros) controlling stake in the Premiership.

England's leading clubs are struggling financially, with Worcester losing £8 million and Harlequins £6 million in the past accounting year, while Exeter were the only Premiership club to make a profit.

Against that uncertain backdrop, Premiership Rugby voted unanimously on Tuesday to listen to all new investment offers and chief executive Mark McCafferty expects quick movement on a potential deal.

But England's top teams do not want to sell on a majority stake in the Premiership and will attempt to retain overall control of the product.

"We had a very positive board discussion and considered a range of alternatives to accelerate investment in the club game," Premiership Rugby chairman Ritchie said.

"The board was unanimous on how to proceed and agreed that selling a majority stake was not the preferred option.

"We shall now develop these options further with our advisors and the interested parties ahead of the next board meeting."

"This is all about how do we engage further in growing from a strong base into something that develops even further?

"But again, control is something that by and large we would want to keep within the clubs."

CVC Capital Partners reportedly bid for a 51 per cent stake in Premiership Rugby.

The Premiership clubs would stand to receive a multi-million pound windfall from any investment deal, which would help offset financial losses surrounding increasing revenues including player wage inflation.

"Ian (Ritchie) and I have a good mandate from today about what the shareholders want to see. So that's given us exactly the clarity we want," McCafferty added.