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Former CEO says cut the Force from Super Rugby

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The Western Force should be cut from Super Rugby and replaced with a second team from Sydney according to the outgoing Waratahs chief executive Greg Harris

Harris is a former chief executive of the Western Force and concluded his term as the Waratahs boss this week and will be replaced in April by New Zealander Andrew Hore from the Ospreys.

Harris says that the Australian Rugby Union do not have the financial power to take on the other sporting codes on a national basis so they should concentrate on smaller areas.

The former CEO says that the ARU would be better off if they cut their losses in Western Australia and Perth as the region cannot prosper in a saturated national sports market.

“Not even the NRL has a national footprint. They tried Adelaide, they tried Perth, but couldn’t make it work, so what makes you think the ARU has the capacity to do it? It doesn’t,” Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“And if you look at a small marketplace like Perth…there’s a lot of good people and a lot of capable people, but the true fact of the matter is whether or not it has the economy to be able to underwrite a club is another thing. If you’re in a business mode you work to your strengths and strength is the marketplace on the east coast.”

Harris added that the way Super Rugby is currently structured will be a “significant challenge” for the game in Australia going forward. He said that even though the Australian conference games are billed as local derbies, they dont have the the same atmosphere or sense of occasion as Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC matches, or Sydney Swans and GWS Giants fixtures.

“Rugby can take a lead through the AFL and the soccer,” Harris said.

“In (AFL) Brisbane and Sydney, you’ve got two teams because you need to have that rivalry established. In soccer, they (FFA) put two teams in (Sydney and Melbourne), so you’ve got a cross-town rivalry. The issue we’ve got here is that we don’t have that tribalism. Our closest competition is the Brumbies who are three and a half hours away.”

When asked whether it was a good idea to have two Sydney Super Rugby franchises Harris said that it is a numbers game.

“You want me to tell you something that you know? At the end of the day, the ARU chairman (Cameron Clyne) is a former banker.

“I wonder how many ATMs he’s got in Perth and I wonder how many he’s got in Sydney and Brisbane? Sydney and Brisbane are where your major stakeholders are. If you don’t protect them, then you’re going to lose them.”

Harris said that club rugby is a major asset for the ARU in NSW and Queensland and a broadcast deal should have prompted investment in areas that from a business sense have previously, and will continue to, reap the rewards.

“If you’re in a situation whereby you’re under siege by the NRL, by the AFL and by soccer, what do you do with your major assets? You protect the assets that actually produce for you,” Harris said.

“I don’t see that in the national strategy. The clubs backed Bill (Pulver) when he needed his NRC, cannibalised their own program, did everything for the ARU. ”

“When the ARU’s got some funds, what’s it done? Actually ignored them. It’s not even the money, it’s the respect,” said Harris.

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