Squabble undermines Melbourne Super15 bid




Fighting between Super 15 bidding consortiums in the city of Melbourne is undermining the city’s chances of being awarded the new team that will play in the Super 15.

SANZAR who run Super Rugby and the TriNations have agreed to expand the Super14 to a  Super 15 with one extra team from 2011 and bidding process has reduced the bidding cities to Port Elizabeth who have the Southern Kings and Melbourne who have three consortiums bidding for the team.

The new Super 15 team will play in the Australian conference as teams will be split into three pools of five and although Melbourne have generally been considered as the favourite infighting between the Australian Rugby Union’s management and a disgruntled consortium that says it has been sidelined from the bidding process are undermining their chances.

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chose the city of Melbourne after three groups lodged interest in forming the 15th team and the ARU said it would work with them to present a single, unified bid.

But one of the groups, a consortium backed by the provincial Victoria Rugby Union, said it was left out of consultations and has slammed the ARU’s management for throwing its weight behind a rival consortium supported by a Sydney-based mining magnate.

“We had an expectation that there was going to be a [consultation] process … It’s certainly perplexing,” VRU President Gary Gray told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“There has been a failure to appreciate the level of support and commitment that the Victorian corporate and rugby community have to the involvement of a professional team.”

The ARU’s spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

The ARU’s board of directors has since come under pressure to reject its management’s recommendation, casting a cloud over the Australia’s organisation of its bid against the Southern Kings, an already established franchise (although they have only played one match) promised government backing.

“The ARU management’s recommendation regarding the award of the licence of the new Super 15 team in Victoria will test whether those occupying the seats on the ARU board are willing to subject the management to the scrutiny this critical decision deserves,” Rob Clarke, a former CEO of Super club ACT Brumbies, told the Australian newspaper on Monday.

“This incident should have the alarm bells ringing in the ears of every ARU board director of the risk that their management is running out of control.”

ARU chief executive John O’Neill said the dispute was threatening to imperil Melbourne’s bid and millions of dollars of revenues from the sale of TV rights.

“Everyone wants to be on the bus but they’re squabbling over who wants to be the driver,” O’Neill told the Australian.

“It’s very much about local personalities, and it’s exploded like Mt Vesuvius with a bucket of the proverbial being thrown over the ARU.

“If Melbourne don’t get their act together, there is a real risk of losing the franchise to South Africa.”

ARU Boss O’Neill however knocked the Southern Kings bid by saying that if SANZAR were to award the new Super 15 team to South Africa it would impact on the value of the broadcast rights that broadcasters were willing to pay.

“We’re in the middle of selling our broadcast rights, and (media firm) News Ltd have indicated they will pay a premium if the fifth team is based in Australia,” he said.

“The significant increase in local content is the driver of the expected increase.”

SANZAR are expected to name the new Super 15 team before the end of October this year.

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