Martyn Phillips has described the deal with CVC Capital Partners and the Guinness Pro 14 as a “sea change” for the tournament.
The Welsh Rugby Union chief executive believes the agreement – confirmed on Friday – will secure the ability of the league to dveleop further, although he warned that the current shutdown of rugby would affect the sport for a long time to come.
The Pro 4 will receive a major cash boost by selling a 28 per cent stake in the league to CVC. The deal, reported to be worth around £120m, will lead to significant investment and is likely to increase the private equity firm’s influence in discussions to remodel the global rugby calendar.
The company already has a minority stake in England’s Premiership Rugby, reported to be worth more than £200m. For the WRU, the injection should be around £30m.
“Celtic Rugby has been working hard on this partnership for a considerable amount of time, it is to the credit of everyone involved that the deal is now over the line and we look forward to a sea change in the ability of the PRO14 to realise its full potential,” said Phillips.
“CVC’s belief in our sport is clear, their commitment is hugely encouraging and this investment is great news for our teams and for Welsh rugby as a whole, although we are under no illusions that COVID has and will continue to have a significant impact on our organisation for some time.
“The Guinness PRO14 is a cross-border competition which brings unique challenges in the current climate, but this is a ringing endorsement for the recent evolution of the competition.”
The PRO 14, which was owned equally by the Irish, Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions, includes teams from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa.
“This investment is great news although we are under no illusions that COVID-19 will continue to have a significant impact for some time,” Phillips added.
Under the agreement, the Italian Rugby Federation will receive part of the investment and join Celtic Rugby DAC, the company owned by the Irish, Scottish and Welsh unions that runs the league.
“The partnership will allow PRO 14 Rugby and the Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions to continue to invest in the sport,” the PRO 14 and CVC Capital said in a statement.