Melbourne Rebels ditched by Super Rugby over financial woes

Australian Super Rugby outfit Melbourne Rebels have been dropped from the competition due to financial difficulties.

The Rebels have been in voluntary administration since January and Rugby Australia confirmed on Thursday it had not accepted a proposal from a consortium to take over the club’s licence from 2025.

Staff and players were told of the decision before flying to Fiji for their final regular-season match on Saturday.

The Rebels, who lie seventh in the table, have reached the playoffs for the first time since being founded in 2011.

A statement from Rugby Australia (RA) said the consortium’s proposals “did not demonstrate sufficient financial viability” and said no documentary evidence had been provided to support a projected 18 million Australian dollars (£9.3 million) in funding.

“Since the Rebels’ inaugural year in 2011, (the Rebels have) not been independently financially sustainable despite significant additional investment by RA over and above committed club grants,” the statement said.

“There is nothing in the consortium’s proposal which demonstrates with sufficient certainty that this will change.”

The Rebels handed over their competition licence to Rugby Australia when it entered administration with debts exceeding 23 million dollars (£12 million), including 11.5 million dollars (£6 million) owed to the tax office.

Rugby Australia, who cut staff and took over player and coaching payments for the season, said an agreement with the consortium carried “an unacceptable level of risk”.

“RA does not take this decision lightly, however it must act in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders, and to provide certainty for the Rebels’ players and staff, and all Super Rugby clubs in planning for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season,” the statement said.

Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association held meetings with players last week to discuss options.

“The focus right now is on supporting the impacted staff and players at the Rebels,” said Rugby Australia chairman Phil Waugh.

“As Australian Rugby evolves, we will consider the game’s professional footprint, and how it best serves the game and Super Rugby.”

He said the authority is “evaluating possibilities” for the Rebels’ scheduled tour game against the British & Irish Lions in Melbourne in July 2025.

The Rebels posted a club statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, thanking fans for their support throughout a “turbulent” year.

The statement said: “We are all incredibly proud of our players, coaches, and staff in delivering our most successful season ever in the most challenging of circumstances.

“We have one final ride – our first-ever finals campaign.”