Aus­tralia’s Su­per Rugby cull heads to ar­bi­tra­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SYD­NEY: The Aus­tralian Rugby Union’s messy and pro­tracted process of ax­ing one of its five Su­per Rugby teams en­tered a po­ten­tially de­ci­sive phase yes­ter­day when the gov­ern­ing body and the Western Force went into ar­bi­tra­tion.

The Mel­bourne Rebels were al­ways un­likely to be closed down given it would cost any­thing up to A$13mil­lion (R136.285m) to buy out the fran­chise’s pri­vate owner and pay back the Vic­to­rian state govern­ment for their in­vest­ment in the game.

That re­mains a pro­hib­i­tive sum given the cull was ini­tially em­barked upon as a cost-cut­ting ex­er­cise, aimed at al­low­ing the ARU to fo­cus in­vest­ment and tal­ent on the re­main­ing four teams as well as the strug­gling grass roots.

The Force con­cluded their Su­per Rugby sea­son with an emo­tional 40-11 vic­tory over the Waratahs and af­ter the match An­drew For­rest, one of Aus­tralia’s rich­est men, came down onto the pitch to pledge his sup­port.

Yes­ter­day, the Force an­nounced that sup­port had been man­i­fest in an of­fer of in­ter­est-free loans for thou­sands of fans who have said they will buy team shares, with the money re­paid to Rugby WA rather than the mining bil­lion­aire.

“We are look­ing for­ward to sit­ting down with An­drew to work through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­posal,” Rugby WA chair­man Tony Howarth said in a news re­lease.

Re­gard­less of how or whether the ini­tia­tive works, any back­ing for the Force is po­ten­tially bad news for the cash-strapped ARU, who are al­ready fac­ing mount­ing le­gal bills.

Their lawyers should be pre­pared for an even big­ger wind­fall should the ar­bi­tra­tors find in favour of the Force and their con­tention that they were guar­an­teed Su­per Rugby un­til 2020 un­der the terms of an ARU takeover last year. That could leave the ARU in the in­vid­i­ous po­si­tion of hav­ing to re­turn to their part­ners in San­zaar – South Africa, New Zealand and Ar­gentina – and tell them they are un­able to get rid of one of the teams.

That sce­nario has not been ruled out by ARU chair­man Cameron Clyne, even if they are still com­mit­ted to the cull. The Aus­tralian play­ers’ union, which has un­der­stand­ably been ve­he­mently op­posed to the loss of an entire team’s worth of ros­ter po­si­tions, has sug­gested re­plac­ing Su­per Rugby with a new com­pe­ti­tion with­out the South Africans.

Union boss Ross Xenos said there was no “clear vi­sion” for the fu­ture of Su­per Rugby and pro­posed a new com­pe­ti­tion post-2020 fea­tur­ing teams from Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Ja­pan and the Pa­cific is­lands.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.