Western Force threaten legal action after Super Rugby axing

Doug Mendoza
August 11, 2017

In a dramatic day for Australian rugby, the Western Force have been axed from the Super Rugby competition and ARU chief Bill Pulver has announced he will quit.

They have never reached the playoffs and the ARU gradually moved to the view that having five Super Rugby teams was stretching Australia's rugby resources too thinly.

In response, Pulver offered this explanation.

"Whilst the board of RugbyWA is extremely disappointed with the ARU's stated position, with the support of the Rugby community and numerous WA business identities including Mr Andrew Forrest we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia", the Force said in a statement.

"Financially it made the most sense and from a high performance perspective it made the most sense".

Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest has also backed a campaign to save the Force from a cull, telling the ARU his support for rugby is contingent upon the franchise remaining in a national competition.

Clyne with ARU CEO Bill Pulver.

The Rebels are expected to put out a statement soon, reflecting their gratitude for the faith shown by the ARU in the future of the club and Victorian rugby, their acceptance that this outcome comes with a "great responsibility" and expressing sympathy for the Force, its officials, squad and fans.

"It'd be wrong to assume there wasn't that level of enthusiasm in Melbourne, there was". You will recall that an EGM was held and the members voted in support - they had an opportunity and they voted in support of four teams, so we're acting in line with what the members and stakeholders want.

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But the Force has lost an arbitration case, leaving the ARU free to end the franchise's licence.

"His involvement's come late in the piece".

When asked whether the Force may be revived when the new broadcasting deal rolls around, in 2020, Clyne would not offer a concrete response. I know it's easy to say people haven't turned up to games because of uncertainty.

"We're dealing with the process of cutting a Super Rugby team and that's been a harrowing process", he told a news conference.

"I want to be very clear to the ARU".

The team to go?

"We have to be very careful that the Australian teams are performing so we retain some ability to have influence over those competition structures in the future. I stand behind all of these wonderful people who believe in a fair go and the right for Australians to support rugby union as a national sport, not just one reduced to the eastern seaboard".

"Our Wallaroos were extraordinary yesterday, only just losing by two points, they deserve a lot more financial support and they're not getting that support", Clyne said. We need to get the balance right.

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