Ty­coon ‘Twiggy’ vows to save Western Force

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Aus­tralian min­ing bil­lion­aire An­drew ‘Twiggy’ For­rest promised Mon­day to dig into his own pock­ets to save Su­per Rugby club Western Force as ar­bi­tra­tion to de­cide its fate got un­der­way. The hear­ing fol­lows the ARU an­nounc­ing in April that ei­ther the Force or Mel­bourne Rebels would be cut from the un­wieldy south­ern hemi­sphere com­pe­ti­tion from next year, along with two South African teams.

This was sup­posed to hap­pen within “48 to 72 hours” of the an­nounce­ment, but has be­come bogged down in le­gal wran­gling. South African fran­chises Cen­tral Chee­tahs and South­ern Kings have al­ready been ditched.

If the ARU win the ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing, which could run for a week or more, they are set to dump the Force, al­though News Corp. news­pa­pers said For­rest could pur­sue fur­ther le­gal ac­tion.

But if it goes in favour of Western Aus­tralia’s Rug­byWA, the na­tional body will have to try to cut the Rebels or ne­go­ti­ate a merger be­tween two Aus­tralian fran­chises. Lo­cal re­ports said Rug­byWA would ar­gue that Western Force are guar­an­teed participation in Su­per Rugby un­til the end of 2020 as part of the cur­rent broad­cast­ing deal.

But the ARU will counter that that guar­an­tee is void after re­gional body SAN­ZAAR moved to re­duce Su­per Rugby from 18 to 15 teams. ARU chief Bill Pul­ver last week re­it­er­ated that Aus­tralia does not have the fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­ity or player depth to sup­port five Su­per teams.

“I’m not go­ing to spec­u­late on the ar­bi­tra­tion, I’m not even go­ing to talk about the ar­bi­tra­tion other than to say it starts on Mon­day,” he said then. The Force are cur­rently owned by the ARU un­der a fi­nan­cial bailout deal they signed last year, but they have launched an ‘Own the Force’ cam­paign to buy back their li­cence.

It has been sell­ing shares to fans at Aus$1,000 (US$800) each to raise enough rev­enue to do this. For­rest, who has pre­vi­ously promised to “keep this team thriv­ing”, Mon­day an­nounced he will now of­fer in­ter­est­free loans to pur­chase shares, with any money lent paid back to Rug­byWA.

This ef­fec­tively means the Force will re­ceive dou­ble for each share sold, leav­ing enough to buy the li­cence and build for the fu­ture, said Rug­byWA chair­man Tony Howarth.

“An­drew’s idea of pro­mot­ing com­mu­nity participation by dou­bling the ben­e­fit for the cause will have a won­der­ful im­pact on both the pro­fes­sional game but more im­por­tantly pro­vide funds for Rug­byWA to sup­port the growth of grass­roots rugby,” he said.

For­rest said in­stead of scrap­ping Western Force, the ARU should merge the Rebels with the ACT Brumbies and en­sure Su­per Rugby is played na­tion­wide, and not just in Aus­tralia’s east­ern states. — AFP

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