Super Rugby

W.Force appeal : ARU win case to axe Super Rugby team




The Western Force have lost their appeal in the arbitration decision in the Supreme Court of New South Wales allowing the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to terminate the Alliance Agreement.

The loss of the appeal means that the ARU have the ability to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition.

It is expected that the Perth Spirit will remain in the National Rugby Championship.

The Force have issued a statement stating:”Since it was announced in April that one Australian team would be removed from the competition, it has been apparent that the ARU fully intended to discontinue the Western Force, a decision that disregards the nation’s third largest rugby playing community and destroys rugby union’s national footprint.”

“As we understand, the ARU had formed the view in February this year that the Western Force were the only team that could legally be removed from the competition, for the ARU to suggest there was an objective and transparent process, evaluating the merits of both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, was misleading and disrespectful to both RugbyWA and the Victorian Rugby Union. This has caused significant damage to both the game and the Super Rugby competition and reflects poorly on the ARU’s own values of honesty and integrity.”

“In 2015, to appease its international partners, the ARU agreed to expand the Super Rugby competition to 18 teams, despite protests from the Australian Super Rugby franchises. Up to that time, the Waratahs and the Reds had recently won Super Rugby titles whilst there were five Australian Super Rugby teams and the Wallabies had featured in the 2015 World Cup final.

“It would appear the ARU’s decision to cut a team has once again been based on prioritizing the preferences of the SANZAAR’s partners rather than a respect for the domestic game and ARU’s own strategic vision of inspiring all Australians with the game of rugby union.”

“RugbyWA hope that under new leadership, the ARU starts to openly and honestly address the real issues affecting the performance of Australia’s professional teams.”

“As a proud and passionate rugby state, rugby union will continue in Western Australia but the decision to remove the state’s professional franchise and aspirational pathway will do irreparable damage to the code in the West.

“RugbyWA will evaluate its legal options and consider grounds to seek leave to appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal in the coming days. RugbyWA also welcome the proposed Senate inquiry proposed by Senator Linda Reynolds into the conduct of the ARU.

“The RugbyWA Board and management and Western Force staff and players are very grateful for the assistance and support of Mr Andrew Forrest AO and look forward to exploring other playing options for the Western Force and rugby union players in Western Australia.

“RugbyWA encourage the entire Western Australian rugby community to support the Wallabies this Saturday, 9 September against South Africa at nib Stadium in a display of the strength and passion of Western Australian rugby supporters.

Meanwhile the Australian Rugby Union have issued a statement of their own saying that they have welcomed the decision in the NSW Supreme Court, which provides legal certainty to all stakeholders.
“ARU will contact the individuals affected by this decision to continue to offer support, including players and staff of the Western Force.

“Throughout its process to reduce one Super Rugby team ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season, ARU has been restricted from providing certain information while it has been subject to court action.
“Some of this information related to the basis on which the decision was made to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence.

“During the process RugbyWA was provided several opportunities to provide its business case, right up until ARU’s call for this information on August 2, but had failed to provide any evidence-based representations upon which the Board could rely in reaching a final view on the future viability of the Western Force.

“The Board’s decision was heavily deliberated. At its core was the need to recalibrate the ARU’s investment in the game to meet the needs of a shifting sports landscape and to support its strategy to “make Rugby a game for all”.

“Rugby is being challenged, as are all sports in Australia, by increased competition for spectators, viewers and participants, especially amongst young Australians.

“The future health of Rugby will be dependent upon the game’s ability to attract more young boys and girls into the sport as players, spectators and fans.

“To meet this challenge, tough decisions have had to be made to ensure that community and development programs are adequately funded to support the growth of the game including schoolboys, junior and women’s Rugby.

“As communicated at the beginning of this process, ARU has invested almost $28 million of unbudgeted, additional “support funding” to Super Rugby teams over the past five years, which has severely limited its capacity to fund these important areas of the game

“Australian Rugby had pushed hard to retain five teams for several years, but it had simply become too great of a burden on its resources.”

“The reduction of one team from Super Rugby will also address an alarming decline in Super Rugby team performance since 2006, which has directly impacted the bottom line of the National and State Unions.”

“Reducing one team will provide a greater choice of talent for Super Rugby teams, create more competition for positions within each team, improve roster depth at each team, and will positively impact the player market with greater competition for contracted positions.”

“The following supporting documentation sets out to provide a more detailed view of the considerations that informed the final decision of the ARU Board.”

“Notwithstanding today’s court decision, ARU is committed to keeping Rugby strong in the West and to provide a clear pathway to the elite level of the game in men’s and women’s Rugby for junior players in Western Australia.”

“ARU is also in active discussions with its State and Territory Member Unions about opportunities to provide Rugby content in Western Australia from the 2018 season.”

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