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Rebels Boss Clarke slams ARU's merger plan

Melbourne Rebels CEO Rob Clarke

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Article Published: Wednesday 26 February 2014|

Melbourne Rebels boss Rob Clarke has slammed the Australian Rugby Union's proposal to merge Super Rugby sides the Rebels, Waratahs and Reds calling it an "an absolute joke".

The cash-strapped Australian Rugby Union (ARU) are looking for ways to save money and have been considering a radical proposal to cut costs.

The ARU Board met on Monday to discuss a potential new model of Australian Rugby where teams would pool assets and cut costs.

However, Clarke says that Australia's Super Rugby operation risks "blowing up the game once and for all" and says that it is an "an absolute joke" if officials believe it can solely solve rugby's problems.

"(ARU chief executive) Bill Pulver has talked about challenges in the game and looking at ways to make it more efficient and more effective to deliver our programs," Clarke told SEN radio in Melbourne.

"But to think that a pure centralisation model is going to solve the ills of Australian rugby is an absolute joke.

"And if anybody went down that path, (they'd) be running an enormous risk of blowing up the game once and for all."

Clarke was also quick remove any rumours that the Rebels could be left out of Super Rugby when the Super Rugby broadcast deal is negotiated next year.

"There are discussions around the broadcast and Super Rugby changing formats ... (it) doesn't mean the Rebels will be axed or combined into anything else, it couldn't be further from the truth," Clarke said.

The ARU took the Mlebourne Rebels under their control last year after founding backer Harold Mitchell cut off his funding.

The new ARU proposal is still in the early stages of negotiations but the aim of it is to make rugby a more powerful code of sport compared to it's rivals in Australia.

The Brumbies have indicated that they want to wait and see before they decide if they will be part of the structure but the proposal is understood to be delaying their search for a new chief executive in Canberra.

If the new proposed structure went ahead the team CEO role would be changed to something like a team general manager.

Australian Rugby Boss Bill Pulver is said to be driving the proposal and using the commercial success of the Reds as a template for the new entity.

If the proposal did go ahead it would make Australian rugby a lot more like the model used in New Zealand, where the five Super Rugby teams maintain control over their own administrative and membership operations but cede control to the NZ Rugby Union on issues including high performance.

Queensland Rugby Union Chief Executive Jim Carmichael has been tipped as a possible leader to head up the new operation if it goes ahead.

"As far as I know, no model has been articulated or agreed ... I don't think the Queensland Reds throwing their fairy dust around the Australian rugby landscape will solve the ills of the game, we've all got our challenges," Clarke said.

"We had a positive ARU Board meeting on Monday, when we talked about the need to organise ourselves so we can implement an effective national strategy for Australian Rugby," Pulver said in a statement.

"The board gave me approval to continue to undertake conversations with our stakeholders and to fine tune the details of some of the potential options.

"With that in mind, I'll continue to talk to the relevant stakeholders to ensure we can secure a really bright future for Rugby on and off the field."

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