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Super Rugby franchise responds to 'voluntary administration' reports

NEWS: The Melbourne Rebels insist they haven’t entered voluntary administration but the move is potentially on the table for the financially-stricken Super Rugby Pacific franchise.

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Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson addressed the playing group before training on Friday after reports emerged that the team, carrying debts of around AUS$ 9 million, had formally entered into voluntary administration.

The franchise is believed to owe the Australian Taxation Office and about AUS$ 1 million in hire fees for their home ground (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium) , managed by the state government’s Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust.

A source said that Stephenson reassured the players that their contracts and salaries were guaranteed for the 2024 season, with their first game looming against the Brumbies on February 23.

Melbourne have lured the likes of Wallabies star Taniela Tupou, who moved from the Queensland Reds, and former Test flank Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who was playing in the UK.

The Rugby Union Players Association has also met with the players to reaffirm their payments would be met under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Stephenson also emailed team members saying the board was continuing to work with Rugby Australia on their financial situation and future.

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“The ongoing work with Rugby Australia is a testament to our shared commitment to ensuring the long-term viability and success of the Melbourne Rebels,” he wrote in an email.

“We assure you that our collaboration will persist as we collectively navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

The franchise is working with insolvency firm Wexted Advisors, who have previously dealt with the Waratahs, with the Rebels board meeting over the weekend in a bid to avoid going into administration.

Starved of revenue, the franchise has been hit hard by the financial woes of its key sponsor BRC Capital, whose chairman Paul Docherty also chairs the Rebels.

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RA have guaranteed its presence in this year’s competition but not beyond, upsetting the Melbourne franchise which feels it has been singled out with other Super Rugby teams also under severe financial pressure.

Five teams are needed to satisfy the current broadcast deal, which expires at the end of the 2025 season.

Melbourne haven’t made the Super Rugby finals in 12 seasons since being brought into the competition in 2011.

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