Ex-England cricket boss Harrison to get top Six Nations rugby job

The lucrative position of overseeing Six Nations rugby’s marketing operations has been landed by the former head of English cricket, who is about to move sports.

According to media reports, Tom Harrison, whose resignation from the England and Wales Cricket Board was announced in May of last year, is almost certain to be named chief executive of Six Nations Limited, which oversees the commercial rights and endeavours connected to the most significant yearly rugby union competitions in the world.

According to sources, the Six Nations Council members are scheduled to approve his nomination at a meeting on Thursday.

The commercial board, which consists of members from the six member unions—England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales—as well as CVC Capital Partners, a private equity company that has grown to be a significant international investor in rugby union, has already given its approval.

According to a rugby insider, Mr. Harrison was chosen following a thorough search for a candidate with substantial sporting and media rights experience, and that decision was based on his performance during his seven years as the ECB’s CEO.

The Six Nations tournament and the series of fall international matches, which are being recast into an annual northern and southern hemisphere competition named The Nations Cup, are both managed by Six Nations Ltd.

The fall internationals are primarily televised on pay-TV and streaming sites like Amazon, whereas the Six Nations, which begins next month, is mostly seen on free-to-air television.

Each year, the Six Nations attracts roughly 120 million spectators, or an average of 8 million for each of the 15 matches.

People familiar with the sport claim that Six Nations Limited is valued at about £3 billion and generated a profit of about £150 million last year.

Ben Morel, whose resignation at the conclusion of the current season was announced in November, will be replaced by Mr. Harrison.

Under Mr. Morel’s leadership, the Six Nations has forged alliances with companies like Tik Tok and Netflix for a fly-on-the-wall series.

Since then, Mr. Morel has agreed to take on a position managing the commercial activities of the French top-flight football league, another company financed by CVC.

With billions of pounds invested in football, rugby, and volleyball, CVC has emerged as the most active private equity investor in sport internationally.

One of the most successful investments in the history of the private equity sector was its prior ownership of Formula One racing.

A rugby executive referred to the Six Nations position as one of the top sports commercial jobs in Europe and suggested that Mr. Harrison may have been drawn to the idea of operating a league without having to be in charge of a number of different national teams.

Mr. Harrison supervised an almost tripling of revenue during his time at the ECB, from £123 million in 2014 to an anticipated £320 million this year.

According to a source inside the sport, Tom “changed the reach of English cricket by creating a hybrid broadcast format across pay-TV and free-to-air.”

Rugby executives are said to have been particularly interested in his work supervising the development of The Hundred format, which is now attracting interest from private equity investors, and the creation of a joint venture structure to bring third-party investment into English cricket.

Allies also give Mr. Harrison credit for overseeing the ECB’s culture change during a time when some aspects of the sport were mired in a long-standing racism controversy.

If Mr. Harrison’s nomination to Six Nations Rugby is approved, he will collaborate with Ronan Dunne, a former executive at O2, who was chosen to serve as the company’s chairman in late 2021.

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