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Australia look for Private equity in Super teams

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The Australian Rugby Union has reversed its previous policy by announcing Thursday it was open to private investment in its domestic Super Rugby teams.


The ARU Board, which also announced a loss of 8.4 million dollars (7.8 million USD) for the last calendar year, said the initiatives were designed to secure the Australian game’s long-term popularity and financial prosperity.


The ARU said an injection of capital from the private sector at Super Rugby level, under tightly-controlled conditions, was an essential next step in the game’s evolution.


ARU chairman Peter McGrath (pictured) said his Board was committed to growing the game at all levels.


“If we want rugby to have a greater footprint in Australia, if we want to have a stronger competitive position against the other major football codes, then we need to advance,” McGrath said in a statement.


“We need to push for an expansion of Super Rugby and explore the introduction of private equity, which has not previously been permissible under ARU policy.


“Private equity is not a dirty word. When managed correctly, it has been a major contributor to the success of various sports around the world.


“We are now a mature professional sport. It is time to look at embracing it.”

 

ARU Managing Director John O’Neill said the strategies to improve Australian rugby’s standing nationally and internationally had been extensively researched and discussed at a three-day planning conference last January.

“We need transformation at the professional level, and that can be achieved through the injection of capital from alternative sources that have an affinity and affection for the game,” O’Neill said in the statement.


“Private equity, however, will need to be tightly controlled and controlled nationally to ensure enduring benefit for the code while also recognising the interests of equity partners.”


The statement said the ARU Board would work with key stakeholders to move the process forward, adding that it also would assess possibilities for future competitions.


“Clearly, any changes to Super 14 require the agreement of our SANZAR partners and inevitably they will have their own ideas for change and we look forward to sharing an exchange of views,” the statement said.


Australia has four teams — ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds and Western Force — in the 14-team southern hemisphere provincial Super 14 series.


The ARU Board reported that a reduced Tri-Nations series and a match programme last year had contributed to a 4.8-million-dollar downturn in gate takings, corporate hospitality and licensing.


Sapa-AFP  – Super14.com

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