Western Force are taking legal action against the Australia Rugby Union ahead of a decision on whether they or the Melbourne Rebels will be cut from Super Rugby next season.
Sanzaar, the tournament’s governing body, is reducing the number of teams in Super Rugby from 18 to 15 and the ARU, which this week announced a profit for a year but has to make cuts ahead of an expected shortfall in the World Cup year of 2019, has agreed to lose one of its five sides.
It decided that one of the Force, the Rebels or the Brumbies would be cut, ruling out the latter after an analysis of factors such as performance on the field and sustainability off it. The ARU wants to make the decision quickly and is meeting officials from the two clubs, both based in traditional rugby union outposts in the country, this month to assess their financial positions.
“Super Rugby has placed an increasingly heavy burden on the ARU business in recent years and the acceleration of revenue declines in our businesses has placed the game under extreme financial pressure,” the ARU chairman, Cameron Clyne, said. “The additional funding provided by the ARU to offset Super Rugby losses has severely limited our capacity to invest further in our grassroots and high performance areas such as player and coach development. Since we expanded to five teams in 2010, the economy we operate under globally has changed dramatically.”
While the Rebels pointed out their frustration at the toll the speculation had taken and their disappointment at the way the ARU had handled the matter, the Force went on the offensive.
“The RugbyWA (Western Australia) board had an unsatisfactory meeting with ARU management representatives today that highlighted that the terms of the assessment and process being used to evaluate ourselves and the Rebels were inconsistent and inequitable,” said the Force in a statement.
“Discussions also failed to address the responsibilities that exist in the Alliance Agreement between RugbyWA and the ARU and we felt in order to protect our position it was necessary to issue legal proceedings to protect our rights under the agreement while we develop the best possible business case to take to the ARU.”