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ARU deny Victorian Rugby Super15 snub

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The Australian Rugby Union has denied that they have snubbed the Victorian Rugby Union in their bid for the new Super 15 licence which will come into effect when Super Rugby expands in 2011.


The Australian Rugby Union has backed the city of Melbourne as their candidate for the licence and the Victorian city will go up against the Southern Kings of Port Elizabeth South Africa for the Super 15 team licence.


Melbourne was agreed as the Australian Super 15 option when the ARU asked the three bids from the city to join forces for the Super 15 bid.


Whatever happens the new team will play in the Australian conference which makes almost a given that the team will be awarded to an Australian based bidder.


A report in the Australian this morning said that the Australian Rugby Union had turned it’s back on the Victorian Rugby Union and that the ARU were set to back the Sydney backed VicSuper 15 consortium.


The ARU responded by denying that they had turned their back on the Victorian Rugby Union but the head of one of the three Melbourne syndicates, A-League soccer team Melbourne Victory owner Geoff Lord, confirmed on Friday his Belgravia Group had been asked to support the VicSuper15 consortium which leaves the VRU in a very much weakened position.


The VRU claimed the ARU had awarded the Sydney-backed VicSuper15 group control of the Melbourne bid with the state union, which controls rugby in Victoria, to have little input.


An ARU statement denied this and said, “The ARU rejects any notion that Victoria has been spurned.”


“The ARU Board has not made any decision as yet on the governance structure of the proposed Melbourne “club”.


“An ARU working group has been striving to have the three parties come together to form one compelling bid that would ensure the October decision by the SANZAR Executive Committee goes Australia’s ‘ and Melbourne’s ‘ way.


“The ARU Board will discuss and decide early next week on the roles and responsibilities the various parties will be invited to take if Melbourne is anointed as the 15th team by SANZAR.


“The three original Melbourne bidders have all been informed they will have important contributions to make in the successful establishment and long-term viability of a Super Rugby side in Melbourne.


“ARU is disappointed internal politics within Victorian Rugby have prevented all three parties embracing a ‘brothers-in-arms’ approach that would give Melbourne its best chance of becoming the next home for a Super Rugby team.


However, Belgravia Group head Lord said that he believed VicSuper15 would lead the bid, with his own syndicate also involved.


The VicSuper15 group contains three dissident ex-VRU directors, Craig Dunn, Glenn Fowles and Nick Farnan, is backed by Sydney-based mining services mogul Kevin Maloney and is to be chaired by former ARU director Bob Dalziel.


“They (the ARU) contacted me to say they were using a structure called the VicSuper15 and that they would encourage me to be part of that,” Lord told AAP on Friday.


“They’ve indicated that the VRU breakaway group (VicSuper15) and Belgravia are the ones being encouraged mainly.”


Lord added that he had heard nothing official from the ARU but confirmed that the trio had been unable to work together.


“The ARU confirmed its support for Melbourne and then spent time with all three of the syndicates talking to them separately and collectively,” said Lord, who is also chairman of the Melbourne Victory.


“Those meetings took place last week … and the ARU’s express intent was to get all of the Melbourne applicants to work together.


“We indicated that we were happy to work with either or both the other syndicates.


“The other syndicates individually both expressed their intent that they were happy to work with the Geoff Lord group, but weren’t happy to work with each other.


“I was told by the ARU they were happy with my involvement but they were having difficulty with the other two and therefore I was no longer required at the meeting because they were going to try and thrash out some arrangements between the two.


“I have not spoken to the ARU since then.”


VRU bid chairman and media buying giant Harold Mitchell reportedly said he would withdraw his financial support, however Lord wasn’t concerned by that.


“Harold and I are great mates so he’ll probably come in with me anyway, he’s a shareholder in Melbourne Victory,” Lord said.


“The VRU might have their nose out of joint … I think it will get resolved fairly easily.


“If they want to participate, they can just come in with me.


“I don’t need to own it, all I’m interested in is getting top level sport to Melbourne.”

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