Axed Force to fight ARU decision in court

 

RugbyWA is considering New South Wales Supreme Court proceedings in a bid to save Western Force after the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced its intention to axe the franchise from Super Rugby.

Following an arbitration process, the ARU on Friday declared its intention to discontinue the licence of the Perth-based team.

Australia is required to sacrifice one of its five Super Rugby participants as the regional governing body - South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby (SANZAAR) - reduces Super Rugby from 18 teams to 15 in a bid to cut costs and safeguard the viability of the competition.

The ARU's decision means Melbourne Rebels, the other Australian team in the firing line, appear to have earned a stay of execution.

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Western Force veteran Matt Hodgson. Pic: Getty

But Western Force will not go down without a fight.

Western Australian rugby's state governing body said in a statement on Friday: "RugbyWA remains committed to pursuing every possible means to ensure the Western Force remains a Super Rugby team in Perth.

"RugbyWA is considering all options including bringing urgent proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW, and legal action relating to the circumstances which led it to enter in the Alliance Agreement with the ARU."

In announcing its intention to axe Force, the ARU said: "Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes.

Forrest addresses Force players. Pic: Getty

"As we have reinforced throughout this process, there are commercial realities which are linked to declining on-field performance across our Super Rugby teams which has put Australian rugby in a position where it can no longer sustain five teams.

"Our immediate concern is to support the individuals at the Western Force through these difficult circumstances and we will deploy various ARU management staff to Western Australia to provide assistance to all players and staff."

The ARU said the decision to "discontinue the Force's licence" was based primarily on financial outcomes.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said Australian rugby couldn't sustain five teams.

Clyne with ARU CEO Bill Pulver. Pic: Getty

The Rebels were the other team on the chopping block, but they are now safe.

The Victorian Rugby Union now owns the Rebels after buying it off former owner Andrew Cox for $1.

"This is a sad day for rugby, especially for Western Force fans," Clyne said in a statement.

"We accept that there will be anger and resentment over this decision and we sympathise with those fans. We sincerely hope that they are not lost to the game forever.

"The decision to exit the Western Force from Super Rugby is not a decision to abandon the game in Western Australia.

"Western Australia will retain an important place in Australian rugby and the ARU will continue to support youth development programs and the community game in the West.

"There will be a clear pathway for young Western Australian rugby players to reach the highest level and represent the Wallabies."

The Force entered the competition in 2006, but failed to make the finals.

Their best finish was in 2014, when they only narrowly missed the finals with a 9-7 record.

The Force made vast improvement this year under rookie coach Dave Wessels, unearthing a host of talented players that the franchise hoped would carry them to a title within the next three years.

"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.

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