Rebel risk assessment: The ARU’s nightmare

Dave Roar Rookie

By Dave, Dave is a Roar Rookie

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49 Have your say

    History provides the greatest catalogue of lessons worth learning and applying.

    In the matter whether to favour the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force to be cut from Super Rugby, well, it has already been comprehensively dealt with.

    Wind back the clock, folks, to October 2004.

    That’s when the ARU under chief executive Gary Flowers undertook an intense scrutiny of bids to provide Australia’s fourth Super rugby franchise.

    On October 20 it culled the also-rans and declared a final showdown between Perth and Melbourne. Each state association was given a month to finalise its bid, including existing and future funding, and the proposals were presented to the ARU for a vote and decision on ten December.

    The Force bid was selected on the basis of greater community support and financial sustainability.

    The VRU proposal relied heavily on a raft of sponsors engaged in short-term State Government projects such as roads, giving rise to concern they were there for show only, whereas the Force landed Emirates as major sponsor, backed up by mining money.

    For several seasons, the Force worked well, albeit despite some horrible mistakes… Firepower, anybody?

    David Pocock (left) captain of the Western Force and coach Richard Graham. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    Re-enter John O’Neill. His second stint as ARU chief was not nearly as successful as his first, when he filled the organisation’s coffers with World Cup money.

    During his reign, the Force lost union funding for its academy and was lumped with coach Richard Graham, before what out West was considered the great betrayal: the creation of the Melbourne Rebels, complete with start-up benefits not given to the Force in 2006.

    That’s when rugby fans in Perth really started to debate whether the ARU was fair dinkum about the Force, and many let their feet do the talking.

    Did former banker O’Neill simply count the respective number of autobanks in each city, or did he truly consider the difficulty of taking on the AFL head to head in its own citadel?

    If he did, and thought he would succeed as he had done with World Cup campaigns in two sports, it was a mighty case of hubris.

    Right now the AFL will be delighted the Rebels exist. The club is bleeding dry its parent body. Perhaps the gurus of the SMH with strong connections into North Sydney can discover exactly how much money the ARU has spent propping up the Rebels and Force respectively per year of existence.

    Keep in mind the AFL is still maintaining a watching brief of the situation in Melbourne, whereas the WA Football Commission was overtly hostile to the Force for the first four years until rugby departed for Members Equity Stadium, curtailing the embarrassment of periodically outdrawing the Dockers at Subiaco Oval.

    When the true financials are published, let the experts then ask if the ARU has a big enough war chest to win the Battle of Melbourne against the AFL?

    Two words: no chance. If the ARU gambles and loses in Melbourne, it could itself become a bankrupted footnote in sporting history.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • Roar Guru

      April 16th 2017 @ 8:47am
      sheek said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Thanks Dave,

      I refer to your second last paragraph:

      Since when was the ARU engaged in a war to win the Battle of Melbourne against the AFL?

      It’s all about establishing a footprint, a niche.

      And providing enthusiasts an opportunity to play & support rugby within their own community.

      It’s not about challenging a larger, longer established sport.

      But hey, let’s shrink our way to oblivion.

      Rationalism comes with a price, but goodwill is priceless.

      This matter is being handled so appalling the ARU & SANZAAR are going to find that losing goodwill is catastrophic.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 1:13pm
        mattocks said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Agree with you Sheik.
        I’m a member of the rebels since the start.
        I don’t follow afl at all
        There are a lot of rugby people in melbourne as i’d say there are in Perth.
        I’m quite sure we’re not here to challenge afl
        But there’s plenty of us enthusiastic and passionate rugby people in victoria to sustain the rebels
        And your last sentence is correct. the ARU and SANZAAR have been appalling in this

        • April 16th 2017 @ 1:24pm
          Jock Cornet said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          How many bankers give a rats about goodwill

          • April 16th 2017 @ 1:27pm
            hog said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

            Yep and that Bankers approach has really worked out well for Australian rugby.

        • April 16th 2017 @ 8:32pm
          Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

          When the going gets tough bankers think short term by cutting, shipping jobs offshore or outsource business units. As the last two options will never happen the current banker in charge of the ARU (you could argue that Clyne now has more clout than Pulver) he has gone for option one.

          It is astounding that the Rebels can come out and say that they should be ok due to the fact that they are privately owned. They are on to their second ownership in 6 years and the ARU are still pumping money they can’t afford in to them. Have the two owners (Mitchell and Cox) ever offered to pay back that money to the ARU……..

          • April 17th 2017 @ 10:04pm
            A joke said | April 17th 2017 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

            Has Waratahs, Reds and Brumbies offered to pay back all the money they have sucked out of the game. What you said it something that Tony Abbot would come up with, think before you spout shite!

      • Roar Rookie

        April 17th 2017 @ 9:13pm
        Kirky said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

        Sheek, Agree mate, who would want to be tied up in Provincial rugby when it’s run by this mob! – If either the Force or Rebels are named as the ones to go, there will of course be one hell of a stoush in the Court, and considering the amount of folding stuff it would cost the ARU and with the purported lack of resources in the Bank balance of the Governing body, who knows? – I think the Brumbies will be looking over their shoulders once more!

        No teams should be put under this shocking duress through the incompetence of a governing body!

        I only hope that no team goes, period.

      • April 17th 2017 @ 9:53pm
        A joke said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

        Melbourne’s population is larger than the population of NZ. To be honest it would not be much less than the white population of Southern Africa. Economically Melbourne would monster NZ.

        Rugby’s problem is not that it cannot compete with AFL, it’s problem is that it is not putting on a decent show and is a ‘secret league’. Games are only held on pay to and teams playing are uncompetitive. Why can’t the Rebels recruit the best union players from around the world?

        As a Victorian who follows union, I do not care anymore if the Rebels fold. the Super competition is just not worth the trouble because it is too hard to follow never being on tv.

        If you want my advice, form a Sydney and Brisbane club competition with a few clubs in places like Melbourne. From where I sit the who Super concept is doomed anyhow. Funding is dropping and participation also. They might as well bite the bullet and play to it’s strengths. Northern Suburbs of Sydney, eastern Sydney, southern, and western. Possibly a Newcastle, Canberra and why not Wollongong to take advantage of the loss of the Steelers? Then toss in some sides from Brisbane and you have a great start.

        Super rugby won’t survive, start planning for an alternative.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 9:09am
      concerned supporter said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      “When the true financials are published, let the experts then ask if the ARU has a big enough war chest to win the Battle of Melbourne against the AFL?”

      Dave, they have just been published, the AFL blows the ARU away.The AFL gave GWS Giants (one club only)
      AUD $21 M last year.
      ARU 2016 – Gross Revenue AUD $128 M
      AFL 2016 – Gross Revenue AUD $ 517 M

      You also say,
      “Two words: no chance. If the ARU gambles and loses in Melbourne, it could itself become a bankrupted footnote in sporting history.”
      Maybe a blessing for Australian Rugby if the current ARU was liquidated. (bankrupted).
      A new Constitution could appoint an efficient Rugby Commission to run the game, together with PEP (Private Equity Partners), the State unions, the 5 “Franchises” & the RUPA.
      The current ARU has no assets anyway. No Real Estate. Their money at the bank was topped up by receipt, in advance of next year’s sponsorship income.Their main Fixed Assets are Computer Equipment & Office Furniture,
      Eastwood Rugby Club currently is in a better financial state, they own real estate.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 2:56pm
        Rugby Tragic said | April 16th 2017 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

        concerned supporter, I concur in fact was commenting to others on a different platform that there has to be other options other than ‘slash and burn’ .. a bit of fine tuning but I believe there is a need to move away from the model they presently have.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 11:08pm
        double agent said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

        I’ve read Eastwood are so broke they’re selling their land. Which was given to them.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 12:37am
          concerned supporter said | April 17th 2017 @ 12:37am | ! Report

          At least they own land.
          The main saleable assets of the ARU seem to Plant, Office Equipment & Office Furniture.
          Their Employees Super & Entitlements owing is AUD $1.8 M

          • April 17th 2017 @ 10:24pm
            Train Without A Station said | April 17th 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

            They only own it because it was gifted to them.

            They get credit for luck?

      • April 19th 2017 @ 2:03am
        ukkiwi said | April 19th 2017 @ 2:03am | ! Report

        I know it’s not funny but I had to laugh at the last line.

    • April 16th 2017 @ 10:23am
      Chopper said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      I agree with Wayne Smith. Move the Brumbies to Melbourne and merge them with the Rebels. All Australian franchises will benefit and overall operational costs should be reduced.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 10:36am
        woodart said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        April 16th 2017 @ 11:22am
        sheek said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        How exactly does that work? Oh, I get it, people are compliant sheep, they’ll just accept whatever is tossed at them.

        Or maybe both Melbourians & Canberrans will feel disenfranchised.

        No, you’re right, people are compliant & will follow like sheep. No problems…..

        • April 16th 2017 @ 1:52pm
          Chopper said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Fitzroy moved to brisbane and the Swans to Sydney and most of their supporters stayed loyal. Sporting teams moving towns is not a new idea, especially overseas.

          • April 16th 2017 @ 2:55pm
            Rebellion said | April 16th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            To repeat from an earlier post I suggest the Western Force merge with ACT and we’ll call them the ACT Brumbies. Perth rugby fans can finally get behind a team with prospects and realistic ambitions – it will grow the game there

            • Roar Rookie

              April 18th 2017 @ 6:24pm
              piru said | April 18th 2017 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

              Rebellion – your girlfriend left you for a West Australian didn’t she?

          • Roar Guru

            April 16th 2017 @ 6:57pm
            sheek said | April 16th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report


            I’m well aware of the Swans- Lions situation.

            It’s horses for courses (no pun intended), what works for one sport won’t necessarily work for another.

            Has anyone conducted a poll in Melbourne & Canberra to see how rugby fans in those cities feel about this?

            Before the Rebels came into existence I thought moving the Brumbies to Melbourne had merit.

            Not now, because Rebels is a wonderful concept that has built a small but loyal following in Melbourne.

            I’ll say it again, bad idea that only alienates two cities & followers of two teams.

            • April 16th 2017 @ 11:02pm
              Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:02pm | ! Report

              Exactly Sheek and most of the bs about mergers comes from the press and supporters of the Reds and Tahs who have not been affected by this in any way shape and form.

            • April 18th 2017 @ 12:19am
              wyn said | April 18th 2017 @ 12:19am | ! Report

              Yes, why not do a poll – I’m a Rebels member and something has to change in Aus rugby. If Rebels/Brumbies merge the other franchise can chip in by playing their home and away games against merged team in Melbourne and Canberra respectively and the remaining Kiwi, SA and Sunwolves home games to be split evenly between the venues. That gives 5/6 games in each of Melbourne/Canberra and 7 in the other capitals.

          • April 17th 2017 @ 11:13am
            Unanimous said | April 17th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            Fitzroy did not move to Brisbane. Fitzroy effectivel disappeared and Brisbane got to choose what they wanted from the remains. Fitzroy supporters did not remain loyal. The few remaining Fitzroy supporters now support the Fitzroy VAFA club.

            Sydney moved and retained some supporters mostly because the team got extremely favourable treatment from the league and became successful after years of finishing near the bottom of the ladder.

            In most cases moving cities is hugely problematic and requires special circumstances and treatment by a league to work. None of those circumstances or special treatment is present here.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 5:18pm
        P.tah said | April 16th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

        I’ve just submitted an article on this. Hopefully it’s published.

        • April 16th 2017 @ 8:37pm
          Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

          ‘I’ve just submitted an article on this. Hopefully it’s published.’

          A waste of key strokes on something that won’t happen.

          • April 16th 2017 @ 8:56pm
            P.tah said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

            May as well get rid of most articles on the Roar if that’s your criteria

            • April 16th 2017 @ 11:00pm
              Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

              P.Tah it’s been mentioned time and time again on here and by the Brumbies that it’s not going to happen to so why did you bother? The Sydney press only constantly raise because they are muppets with agendas and don’t deal with reality.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 8:34pm
        Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

        ‘Move the Brumbies to Melbourne and merge them with the Rebels’

        How about no. The Brumbies cost the ARU the least amount of money. Who would finance the stupid suggestion? Plus the ACT Government will bring in their lawyers.

        • April 17th 2017 @ 10:19pm
          A joke said | April 17th 2017 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

          Why not come up with an even dumber idea. Let’s have just one Aussie team and they play in a different city every home game like the circus or Grand Prix. Let towns bid for matches. Hobart, then Geelong, Rockhampton whoever has the cash and while we are at it, shift to a pay per view model. You pay for every match like the boxing.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 9:18pm
        Red Block said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

        Well said Chopper! I was about to write the same thing.
        SOUTHERN BRUMBIES anyone?

    • April 16th 2017 @ 11:13am
      DaveJ said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      Merging the Brumbies with the Rebels would not be a merger, just the end of the Brumbies. Unless it meant playing a third or a half of home games in Canberra, which doesn’t sound like a starter. As a Canberran, I can still see why there might be calls to drop the Brumbies, given a shrinking playing base and fan support. Longer term, maybe there is greater room for growth in Melbourne and Perth. But the ARU seems to think that the Brumbies stack up better than Force or Rebels, so the question is which of those will go. Not easy.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 1:15pm
        mattocks said | April 16th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Agree, as a melburnian the merger sounds a bad idea.
        But the Brumbies should’ve been in the mix for the cut
        Basically for the reasons you have stated.

        • April 16th 2017 @ 8:38pm
          Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

          The Brumbies were in the mix for the cut but met all criteria so time to move on.

          • April 16th 2017 @ 9:00pm
            Sheikh said | April 16th 2017 @ 9:00pm | ! Report

            The trouble with this is that the criteria that the Brumbies met hasn’t been made public.

            Is the comparison of the Rebels and the Force going to be based on the same criteria through which the Brumbies passed? In which case, why can’t the ARU release the criteria (I’ve asked them and been rebuffed).

            If the comparison of the Rebels and the Force is going to be based on different criteria than those which the Brumbies passed, then these clubs are being made to meet a different standard.

            The ARU is not covering itself in glory in any way with their obfuscations in this.

            • April 16th 2017 @ 10:56pm
              Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

              If you actually watched the ARU’s press conference Clyne mentioned the criteria that all the sides were evaluated on and stated that the Brumbies were up for the chop. He said the Brumbies met all of the stated criteria. End of debate.

              ‘Is the comparison of the Rebels and the Force going to be based on the same criteria through which the Brumbies passed?’

              Of course it is. The issue from the Force side is that the ARU went over to Perth to give the Force an opportunity to state their case. The Force chairman has come out publicly stating that all the ARU did it in the meeting was state this why they are keeping the Rebels in the competition with a set of figures on hand to back that up. He further went out to state that he wasn’t allowed to see those figures (due to ‘confidentiality) to be able to come up with a counter argument. The Force went out and sort a writ to enforce an injunction to stop the process.

              Again it’s got nothing to do with the Brumbies.

              • Roar Rookie

                April 17th 2017 @ 9:45pm
                Kirky said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:45pm | ! Report

                Bakkies, Seemingly not the same criteria as the Brumbies got in by! – If it so turns out that the said “same criteria ” doesn’t apply, you can absolutely guarantee that there will be a helluva stoush in the Court, because you can bet that the Force and the Rebels are sussing that equital criterion right at this very moment!

          • Roar Rookie

            April 17th 2017 @ 9:28pm
            Kirky said | April 17th 2017 @ 9:28pm | ! Report

            Bakkies, How did the Brumbies get suddenly viable financially when a few weeks ago they were broke, so to meet the mickey mouse criteria someone must have laid some dollars on them, and isn’t part of the criteria incumbent on Sponsorship? – The SMH rugby Columnist suggests you have very little of the said Sponsorship!

            The Brumbies are worse off than the Force is for money in the bank, so why not the Brumbies?

        • Roar Rookie

          April 19th 2017 @ 10:59am
          piru said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

          All the teams should have been in the mix –
          if NSW and QLD are so important then surely they’d have met all the necessary criteria with flying colours.

          Like I said before, if all the teams were up for possible canning, the vote might have gone a different way

    • April 16th 2017 @ 2:23pm
      nickbrisbane said | April 16th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

      Off point slightly – interesting to see what happens if the SA Gov tells the SARB they have to keep the Kings in the comp.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 8:44pm
        Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

        ‘Off point slightly – interesting to see what happens if the SA Gov tells the SARB they have to keep the Kings in the comp.’

        It’s only a matter of when. Their RWC bid will fall apart with the axing of two sides. I doubt the IRB will be impressed that SARU is looking to cut their professional playing and fan base. The Government may put them under the gun for that. They were hesitant to back the bid i the first instance as SARU weren’t meeting their requirements.

        There is a report come out just yesterday that the IRB ruled out Newlands and Kings Park as potential RWC venues due to safety reasons. It’s also interesting that out of the three bids SA is the only bidding country that hasn’t published a list of venues. They also don’t have a website. Ireland and France have done both.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 11:06pm
        Bakkies said | April 16th 2017 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

        The Cheetahs have now come out and said they are looking to take SARU based partially on the same reason why the Force are taking action against the ARU. They’ve stated that they have a signed agreement with SARU for the next 3 and a half years till 2020 (includes that season as the new contract will come in to effect in 2021) to play in the Super Rugby competition.

        • Roar Rookie

          April 19th 2017 @ 10:57am
          piru said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Has the ARU and SARU jumped the gun a bit?

          Would they have been better off waiting til 2020 and the new contract?

    • April 16th 2017 @ 5:09pm
      AndyS said | April 16th 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

      It is not a case of if the ARU gambles, they already have. Without due diligence on a sale, they probably have no idea what it would take even now to buy themselves out of Melbourne. So assuming they don’t , they are highly dependent on the goodwill of the owner – he will be well aware they can’t afford to have the team dropped back on them and could demand almost anything of them to prevent him walking away. And the real nightmare might be that he does anyway, depending on how that is addressed in the contract. Unless there is something that requires him to leave the place debt and obligation free when he quits, who knows what they could be left to deal with.

      None of which attaches to the team or the fans, I might add. This is entirely a situation of the ARU’s own making.

      • April 16th 2017 @ 7:41pm
        Jacko said | April 16th 2017 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

        They are going to give the Rebels owner the licience to the Force….Debt free…

        • April 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm
          Ronb said | April 17th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

          No they wont, the easiest and cheapest option is to get rid of the Force!

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