With the impending demise of one our Super Rugby teams all but decided, the question is now which team should go.
I generally like to be short, sharp and straight to the point so I will be.
The Australian Super Rugby team that should be cut is the Melbourne Rebels.
There are several reasons that make this decision the correct one.
The first reason being is they have not captured the imagination of the Melbourne/Victorian public, including a large majority of the rugby playing fraternity.
This is primarily due to the fact that many, many of the rugby playing and supporting fraternity are Kiwi ex-pats, people from NSW or QLD, and Pacific Islanders. They support their own teams such as the Crusaders, Waratahs or Hurricanes, for example.
Another major reason is that initially the Rebels were very good at getting involved with Victorian Rugby and local clubs in and outside of Melbourne. This all but disappeared after the first year.
The Rebels became solely focused on themselves and forgot about the rugby population in Victoria. The Conversion for Clubs was a good initiative but it was primarily run by Rabodirect, not the Rebels – they went with it as they were bound by the sponsorship agreement – but once Rabo pulled the Conversions for Clubs and eventually ceased the sponsorship there was nothing done by the Rebels to replace it.
Perhaps a sheer lack of funding was the culprit, as investment into the Dewar Shield and other comps has been minimal at best.
Further to this is that as many people have pointed out many people in Victoria still get league and union confused – it’s all rugby, they simply do not care about the Rebels. How do I know this? I lived and played rugby in Victoria for several years and my former club won Conversions for Clubs two years in a row, and I saw first hand how interested the Rebels were with it.
Another argument against their inclusion is that a couple of years ago when more local derbies and games against New Zealand teams were announced, the Rebels were very happy. Why? Not because they had more local derbies but because they stated that their best crowds were against NZ sides.
This was a short term growth strategy – relying on growing and getting exposure through fans of other clubs – more people were going to a Rebels vs Crusaders game to watch the Crusaders!
Another note to add onto this point is that several sponsors look at the Rebels as a way of getting exposure in the South African and NZ markets as opposed to Australia, again purely because the market in Australia does not watch and engage with the Rebels.
Another valid reason is that the Rebels have lost vast amounts of money over the years and have not been able to secure a major sponsor for the past couple.
If the Rebels were going to work they would have worked by now. Their recruitment has been poor with vast amounts of money wasted on ‘stars’ that were not interested in the club and the talent coming through is predominantly coming from external sources.
They have a private owner now, but they were under private ownership when they started and they were eventually handed back to VRU, who did not have the resources to run an organisation as large as the Rebels, so the ARU took over until another owner was found.
It was simple business that led the Rebels to be sold in the first place, it will eventually be simple business again that will see the ownership change again.
There are other reasons that I could list but I believe that the former are the main reasons, in my opinion, that place the Rebels at a greater disadvantage than the other teams at risk of being cut in the Brumbies or Force.
Others have suggested on this site that a merger between the Brumbies and the Rebels could be a way to save both clubs history and I believe that has merit if it is done correctly.
For what it is worth, I am actually a Rebels fan, I go to their games when I can (I now live in NSW) and I have the merchandise and I watch them whenever they play. But I am also a rugby fan and if the reality is that Australia has to drop a team than I feel the best team to drop that will have the most positive effect on rugby in this country is unfortunately the Rebels.
I have written this based on the fact that it has been decided that a Aussie team will be cut, not because I agree with a team being cut. I just hope a decision is made quickly and the decision is well thought for what is in the best interest of rugby, not money!