Two execs at firm with plans to take Six Nations off free TV made donations to Conservatives

Wales’ Josh Adams scores during a Guinness Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

Two executives of the private equity firm with plans to take the Six Nations off free-to-air TV recently made five-figure donations to the Conservative party, Nation.Cymru can reveal.

Electoral Commission records show that Robert R. Lucas, a managing partner and director of the UK arm of CVC Capital Partners, gave £25,000 to the Tories on November 28 – two weeks before the general election.

On the same day, Robin P. Hooper, another CVC managing partner, gave the Tories £10,000. Both men already represent CVC on the board of the company which runs the English Premiership.

Such funding is completely legal but the links between CVC and the Conservative party can be revealed just days after the Conservative UK Government rejected a campaign led by Welsh MPs to stop the Six Nations being put behind a paywall for the first time since 1997.

Six Nations matches could be taken off the BBC and ITV as part of a £300 million deal for CVC to acquire a 15% stake in the Six Nations.

The sum donated by Robert R. Lucas is exactly the amount needed to qualify him for ‘the Treasurers’ Group’ – an exclusive Conservative party donor club which offers access to the Chancellor.

“The Treasurers’ Group is aimed at supporters predominately employed in the financial services and business sectors,” the Conservative party’s website explains. “Members will be invited to discuss topical issues of the day with the Chancellor and other senior figures.”

The figure given by Robin P. Hooper is the membership fee for the Conservative’s ‘Renaissance Group’, which promises members “dinners and political debate with eminent speakers from the world of business and politics.”

CVC have already bought a 27% stake of the English Premiership and Pro 14 with a promise to increase broadcast revenue.

Lucas and Hooper, along with one other CVC representative, are both on the board of Premier Rugby Limited, the company which controls the English Premiership.

 

‘Disappointing’

News of the deal’s ramifications for broadcasting caused a public outcry and led to Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, tabling an early day motion in the UK Parliament which called for the Six Nations to be “placed in the Government’s Category A of sporting events which must be made available live on free-to-air platforms.”

The motion was supported by 34 more MPs from six parties, the majority of them from Wales.

The UK Parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee also took up the campaign, issuing a formal request that the tournament be protected as a ‘grade A’ event to England’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden.

But it was revealed last week that the request had been rejected. Backbench Conservative MP Julian Knight, who chairs the committee, said: “It is very disappointing and a real missed opportunity that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is not even prepared to consider our request.

“It would have given fans hope for the future to see a national event that brings people together was being protected for all. That’s the message that becomes even more important in a time like this.”

Sky Sports are in pole position to win the next contract for the tournament’s broadcast rights, according to the Rugby Paper. Amazon has been cited as another potential paywall bidder.

CVC have a history of doing business with Sky, buying an 80% stake in its gambling arm, Sky Bet, for £800 million in 2014.

At the time, Lucas said: “We are delighted to have agreed to acquire a controlling stake in Sky Bet…The partnership between CVC and Sky will provide a strong platform to support SkyBet’s ongoing success at this exciting point in its development.”

Neither he nor Hooper has previously made a political donation. Although, under Lucas’s chairmanship, the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association issued a warning about the impact of a Labour government on business ahead of the 2015 general election.

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Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

The only reason the 6 Nations tv rights are up for auction is the greed of the home nations rugby authorities who want more money for them.
The money raised goes to the bureaucrats and big clubs, witness in England the furore about the lack of funds from the RFU to clubs below the Prem League.
Small clubs are in their death throes thanks to a total lack of money and interest from the well heeled Twickers establishment. Other correspondents I’m sure can tell you if a similar situation exists in Wales.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Yes, it can only be about more money for the bodies. The WRU showed what really motivates them during the tour of Argentina two years ago. Patagonians asked them to play there; it would have been a great opportunity to highlight Wales’s links with the province’s Welsh community. The WRU ignored the request and only played in the more populous north, where a bigger revenue was guaranteed. ‘Nuff said.

Ben Angwin
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Ben Angwin

These Tory donors’ actions are lawful and cunning.

Rhys ap Gruffudd in the 1130s accepted the rules of the game and fought back. He imitated the marcher lords.

Many Welsh today (especially Welsh nationalists) do not accept the rules of the game. Today’s marcher lords and warrior princes are private investors – those are the rules of our world.

Jason Evans
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Jason Evans

Any chance of you expanding a bit more. This comments almost as nonsensical as some of the “Prophecies”.
This isn’t a Cymru/Wales issue only, people in Scotland and England are going to miss out just as much.
What you’ll have is people who can afford it will watch those of us who can’t will be disenfranchise from yet another sport.
What are the chances of those privileged Patrons of Welsh, Scottish and English rugby actually standing by the majority of people and speaking out against the 6N going behind a PayWall.

Ben Angwin
Guest
Ben Angwin

Moral allegiences do not change the truths of our world. Money does. If you wish to change it, you must make money.

Jason Evans
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Jason Evans

That’s just ridiculous. Who has to make money, the WRU , the RFU, the SRU, the IRFU. Or are you saying BBC and ITV need to grease the palms of the political party in power. Or are you saying the TV licence needs to increase ? You one of the charge the over 75 mob, may as well charge a license fee every person in the household including children, will that comply with your money rising ideals. What about sticking the FA cup, the football WC, Euro’s on PPV, how about Wimbledon, lets just disenfranchise those who can’t afford it… Read more »

Philip Lewis
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Philip Lewis

It’s criminal that private companies and directors can bribe the Tories to get exclusive access to the Chancellor.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

I recall the Italian journalist on the Mafia money trail, formed the opinion that City of London was a terribly corrupt
Place. This led me to thinking Brexit was all about blocking EU investigation. It’s the free ticket stuff again.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

ALL Political parties crave donations so you need to be a touch careful about singling out any one donor or recipient. The whole donations racket is riddled with backhanders, smart guys playing a “long game” or, occasionally, instant gratification. As for the 6 Nations it is quite evident that our 4 Home Unions are driven by the overriding need to generate revenue ( no doubt France and Italy are cut from similar cloth but I know less about them). Where they are able to concoct a deal which gives a sudden boost to revenue and profit it becomes easier for… Read more »

David Brock
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David Brock

I’m one of the thousands of Welsh people who watches the 6 nations but not any other rugby. I won’t pay extra for the privilege. I have sky sports so if its ‘free’ on there I’ll watch, if its extra I’ll not. This greed has to end somewhere. Doesn’t this pandemic teach us anything, how greed, how weakthis chasing ever increasing profits has made us?

Hywel Moseley
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Hywel Moseley

I am not in the least interested in sport including rugby but am dismayed that so many fans in Wales will be prejudiced by yet another unjust and thoughtless decision of the Tory Government. May I suggest a possible escape route from all of this injustice, which must affect fans from all four nations: boycott the existing tournament and start a rival tournament. I know so little about the factual background that I do not know whether this would work, but surely if there is no other answer it is worth investigating?

Owain Glyndwr
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Owain Glyndwr

WHAT is needed not a Paywall, WHAT is needed is a focus on the young people in the age bracket 4 to 18, both in the school and after-school clubs. You look at the total brilliance of New Zealand an otherwise modest country, you remember back to the total brilliance of Wales eg 1970s. Children and young people in the age bracket 4 to 18 would love to play Rugby and become the best in the world. WHAT is needed is a greater focus on development and mentoring and coaching staff in schools and out of schools. WALES first team… Read more »

John Ellis
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John Ellis

‘Two executives of the private equity firm with plans to take the Six Nations off free-to-air TV recently made five-figure donations to the Conservative party, Nation.Cymru can reveal.’

Now there’s a surprise … ! 😉

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Pass me the brandy, John!

Gary
Guest
Gary

Lines their pockets and those Tories who are not revealing their intrests in the companies that want to do this.
Rugby was once the game of the so called elite of later years it has become a stronhold of the working classes who toiled all week and still turned out on the weekends for their Local team. Another kick in the teeth from the hooray henrys looking to line their own pockets

Robin Lynn
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Robin Lynn

And Covid-19 keeps us looking the other way. I fear this one is lost.