Force heads back to court as culling saga drags on

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 07:34
Large andrew forrest 800

SUPER RUGBY 2018 FORMAT: The Western Force has won the right to appeal their axing from the competition, as the culling saga drags on.

This follows after the Australian Rugby Union rejected a major cash injection from a mining magnate to keep the franchise in the competition.

The Perth franchise's parent body, Rugby WA, lodged the appeal request with the New South Wales Supreme Court in last week after the ARU announced Force's removal from the Southern Hemisphere competition in early August.

Australia had to cut one of its five Super Rugby teams as the sprawling Trans-continental competition slims down from 18 sides to 15 next year.

The Sydney court was set to hear the appeal on Wednesday after the hearing request was granted, although it was not clear if a ruling would be made this week.

The decision came after board representatives from the ARU met with billionaire miner Andrew Forrest, a heavyweight backer of Rugby WA, on Tuesday.

It is understood Forrest offered up to AU$50 million (US$39 million) to support Australian rugby if Western Force was retained in the Super Rugby competition.

The ARU did not give details about the offer, but did not accept it.

"We were genuinely appreciative of Andrew's generous offer to back the Western Force and Australian Rugby, however, given the position we are in we are unable to work towards retaining five teams in Super Rugby," ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said in a statement late Tuesday.

"We are at the final stages of this process and Australian Rugby's constituents have voted to reduce Australia's Super Rugby representation to four teams and we have made commitments to SANZAAR."

Forrest said in a statement via his Minderoo Foundation that he was "very surprised that there appeared to be no flexibility whatsoever to find a solution for the future of the sport".

But he added that the ARU had committed to working with the Western Force and the foundation to "develop a new international competition" that was based in Western Australia state and focused on the Indo-Pacific region.

"This commitment was made regardless of the outcome of the appeal hearings in the Supreme Court," the statement added.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver announced his resignation in the immediate fall-out from the contentious decision to cull the Force, while the body's director Geoff Stooke, from Western Australia, stepped down in protest.

Western Force joined Super Rugby in 2006, but have never made the competition's finals series.

Their best finish was in 2014, when they only narrowly missed the finals. This season, the Force finished second in the Australian conference behind the ACT Brumbies.

Meanwhile, Rugby WA has released a statement in which they shared their grievances over the negative outcome of the meeting between Andrew Forrest, ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne and directors Brett Robinson and John Eales.

Full Rugby Western Australia (Rugby WA) statement:

Rugby WA is incredibly disappointed to hear that yesterday's meeting between Andrew Forrest and ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne and directors Brett Robinson and John Eales failed to reach a positive outcome. 

Particularly given Mr Forrest's incredibly generous offer to donate many 10s of millions to support community rugby as well as financially underwrite the Western Force. 

Further, commitments to Rugby WA Board Member David Vaux on Sunday afternoon by Cameron Clyne, that the ARU would accept the retention of five Australian teams provided Andrew Forrest financially underwrote the Western Force and make a significant contribution to Australian rugby.

Rugby WA Chairman of the Board Tony Howarth says: "It is now clear that the ARU did not attend the meeting in Adelaide with the intention of resolving a mutually acceptable agreement, as said previously by ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne."

Rugby WA is adamant that if the ARU can afford to refuse approximately $50 million to support grass roots rugby then the decision to cut an Australian franchise cannot logically be based on the ARU's financial position. Therefore the basis on which the ARU has decided to remove a team needs to be fully explained.

Further, we understand that during the meeting the ARU Directors were adamant that a Senate Inquiry as requested by Senator Linda Reynolds and supported by Federal Sports Minister Greg Hunt, had no place or role to play in Australian Rugby. 

Rugby WA strongly supports the call for a Senate Inquiry based on the ARU's misinformation as to their financial position and their lack of information available for the reasons for removing the Western Force.

Today, Rugby WA has been granted leave to appeal the Australian Rugby Union's (ARU) decision to cut the Western Force from Super Rugby next year. The decision was made by New South Wales Supreme Court judge David Hammerschlag.

AFP

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