An executive at English rugby union’s governing body is vying to become the new boss of the sport’s top flight as it prepares to expand to incorporate 14 clubs.
Sky News has learnt that Simon Massie-Taylor, the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) chief commercial officer, is among the candidates shortlisted to become Premiership Rugby Limited’s (PRL) next chief executive.
Sources said that the process, which is being run by the headhunting firm SRI, was nearing a conclusion and was likely to result in an announcement as soon as next month.
Mr Massie-Taylor, who worked for the British Olympic Association before joining the RFU in 2016, is thought to be the only rugby insider on the shortlist to run PRL.
If Mr Massie-Taylor were to secure the PRL’s top job, it could set the scene for a closer relationship between the RFU and the clubs which play in the sport’s elite league.
The completion of a search for a successor to Darren Childs, whose departure was announced in April, will come as English rugby union’s top flight prepares to welcome back Saracens following its year-long absence.
Saracens, the former European and Premiership champions, were relegated last year in the wake of 35-point deduction and £5m fine after being found guilty of breaching the sport’s salary cap.
The club’s return to the Gallagher Premiership will come as the division expands to 13, and then 14 teams, following the decision to eliminate relegation for two years.
Last season’s Premiership Final saw Harlequins winning their first title for nine years after beating Exeter 40-38.
A large minority stake in PRL is owned by CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm which bought into the sport in 2019.
Since its deal with PRL, it has also acquired stakes in the Six Nations Championship, as well as the Pro14 tournament featuring teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
A string of other deals in the pandemic-affected sport have also emerged, with World Rugby hiring bankers to explore options for the sale of a stake in the commercial rights to the World Cup.
CVC is arguably the most prolific investor in sport globally, having made billions of pounds for its investors from its ownership of Formula One motor racing, which it sold to Liberty Media in 2016.
It has accelerated the pace of its investment in the sector during the last 12 months as more sports federations and rights-owners have sought funding in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Among its recent deals was the purchase of a stake in the commercial rights to international volleyball, while it is in talks to acquire a big stake in OneTennis, a new entity that would take a unified approach to backing men’s and women’s professional tennis globally.
Earlier this month, it emerged that CVC was also plotting the purchase of a stake in La Liga, Spanish football’s top flight.
The RFU has been contacted for comment, while PRL could not be reached for comment on Monday.
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