Super Rugby format up for discussion. Again


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120 Have your say

    ARU boss Bill Pulver will be front and centre at SANZAAR’s executive committee meeting in Tokyo on Friday, but rugby fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting to hear which Australian franchise is cut from Super Rugby.

    The ongoing saga will be a priority discussion point when the competition’s rulers try to thrash out a solution after committing to a restructured 15-team format in 2018.

    But with South Africa no closer than Australia to reaching a decision on which teams to remove as the Cheetahs and Kings fight for survival, no announcement is expected this weekend.

    “I do not expect any announcement to be made after the meeting given that SARU and ARU are still working their way through the processes that will determine which teams represent them in Super Rugby,” SANZAAR media chief Greg Thomas said.

    The ARU announced a month ago that either the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force would be cut, but both franchises are digging in to remain.

    The Rebels are refusing to comment on reports that the ARU has made an offer to buy back the Super Rugby license.

    Rebels owners, Andrew Cox and the Imperium Group, are reportedly set to launch a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the governing body to recoup the damages cause by the ARU’s bid to axe them.

    The Rebels, who insist the ARU has no legal right to remove them from the competition, say the relentless speculation has affected membership and ticket sales as well as their brand.

    The club’s last remaining foundation player, prop Laurie Weeks, admits the uncertainty is also affecting the Rebels’ form.

    “Just with the doubts about our future, it’s transferred onto the field,” Weeks said this week after the Rebels’ one-from-nine start to the season.

    The Force also remain adamant the ARU has no legal right to kick them out.

    Under the “alliance” deal struck between the two bodies last year, the Force’s future was guaranteed until the end of the current broadcast deal in 2020.

    Last month, the Force issued a writ in the Supreme Court notifying the ARU of their intention to apply for an injunction if the governing body tries to revoke their Super Rugby licence.

    “For guys with families, it’s all quite unsettling,” Force back Alex Newsome said this week.

    “And it is unsettling for me as well, because I’m loving Perth and loving the Force. I really want to stay.”

    By Darren Walton and Melissa Woods

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (120)

    • Roar Guru

      May 11th 2017 @ 12:03pm
      Kashmir Pete said | May 11th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      Re earlier article “open letter to Clyde Cameron” and its compromise to merge Melb/Canb rep teams. My view:

      RIGHT ON.

      Base Brumbies in Melbourne – remove 1 return flight, for every single “away game’ they play, relative to Canberra.

      Home games against Sydney/Qld in ACT. Melbourne fans MUST travel, if wish to see “historic grudge matches”.

      Home games against NZ teams, Perth, Japan, Argentina always in Melbourne – for benefit of their player welfare. All South African games in ACT. Option for Brumbies to with one SA team for “double header” games in Perth, along with another visiting SA team playing Force on the same day. Melb/ACT/SA fans can fly in for weekend for annual event.

      Best part of this – Melbourne joins ACT fans in 2 x annual “SUPER GRUDGES” with Sydney/QLD in Canberra. Gets back to momentum, not approaching State of Origina, but similar, only with Melb/Canb direct stakeholders.

      For whingers saying Brumbies will lose Canberra fans – get it right, you will be the Manchester United of Oz SR.

      Just as a Pac Islander super team, become the best supported rugby team, GLOBALLY.


      • May 11th 2017 @ 12:23pm
        Darkhorsee said | May 11th 2017 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        ARU has confirmed the Brumbies stay, and they stay in the ACT.
        The Force or the Rebels will go.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm
          piru said | May 11th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          They also confirmed it would be decided within 72 hours

          • May 11th 2017 @ 2:38pm
            Darkhorsee said | May 11th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

            The Force and Rebels are now threatening legal action about this mess, and they’ve always been in the firing line.

            How keen do you think is the ARU to face a probable lawsuit from the Brumbies if they are merged after the ARU officially stated the Brumbies are safe and staying in Canberra?

            This story is really dragging on and on unnecessarily – the sport’s fan base has been shattered and tribalism further exasperates and pitches fans against each other. That is the saddest realisation – every franchise for itself trying to save its little arse, may the others perish.

            • May 12th 2017 @ 10:06am
              puff said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

              Gents for Bill Pulver and the balance of his executive admin, it may no-longer be about releasing one underperforming franchiser but how to handle the financial storm that will follow. At the end of the day what is good for rugby may only be a secondary consideration, how to survive within an environment that has all the OZ teams at the bottom of the heap, maybe the primary contemplation. At this juncture there are no positives for Bill and friends including their own futures. If I was Bill I would be treading water as well because I can’t see him treading grapes any time soon.

              • May 13th 2017 @ 1:50am
                Huw said | May 13th 2017 @ 1:50am | ! Report

                Ultimately the ARU can play hard ball and not give any money to the Force and refuse any extra claims from the Rebels.

                The sad fact is 5 teams are not financially viable and Legal action want change that.

            • May 13th 2017 @ 12:50pm
              superba said | May 13th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

              Kick out the Japs and the Argies .
              Why should SA and Aus sacrifice players careers for these teams .
              If their development is so important let the International Rugby Board sort that out .Surely the development of Jap and Argie rugby is not the responsibility of SANZAR but if the International Board .

              • May 14th 2017 @ 11:11am
                P2R2 said | May 14th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

                Because SA and AUS are not performing and Japan has way way more money than ARU, ARG will remain to grow the game. ..AUS NEED TO lose 2 teams and also SA

          • Roar Guru

            May 11th 2017 @ 3:29pm
            Machpants said | May 11th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

            Ah but which 72 hours?

          • May 11th 2017 @ 10:44pm
            andrewM said | May 11th 2017 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

            Jack Bauer did more in 24 hours than what these guys will do in a lifetime

        • Roar Guru

          May 12th 2017 @ 11:20am
          Timbo (L) said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          The ARU got it wrong and need to walk back that statement and look for alternatives.

          The only possible outcomes will be either Cox taking a massive payout to close the Rebels or a Merger, Or Both.

          Likely merger Combinations include Brumbies – Rebels and Rebel – Force but there could be some surprise options.

          The Force is currently 1/3rd local, 1/3rd former Reds, 1/3rd Former Tahs. The ARU should be open to all possibilities and selected the best one.

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2017 @ 11:22am
            Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:22am | ! Report


            Another possible outcome is that the Force could be excluded.

            • Roar Guru

              May 12th 2017 @ 5:11pm
              Timbo (L) said | May 12th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

              There are legal problems with axing the Force. Commitments have been made with 3rd parties including a government entity that can’t be unwound nor paid out.

              The ARU can buy their way out of the Rebels contract. It will cost them a packet, but it is feasible. If they aren’t prepared to offer Cox the right sort of money, it will stalemate as he has legal rights to deny being axed as well.

              This leaves:
              Axe the Tahs or Reds because they are the only ones with weak contracts.

              And before you go off your trolley, I am not advocating either of those but it is a corridor full of dead ends

              To be clear, a merger does not have to involve the Rebels, though it is probably the best fit solution. Brumbies or Force, I don’t Care.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 9:10pm
                Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

                There has been nothing reported about any legal obligation between the ARU and WA government that would require a team being maintained.

              • May 13th 2017 @ 2:30pm
                Rhys Bosley said | May 13th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

                If there wasn’t a credible argument that there was a legal obligation, the decision to cut the Force would have been made.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 9:21pm
                Bakkies said | May 12th 2017 @ 9:21pm | ! Report

                TWAS of course they won’t report it to the press when it is in the hands of high profile solicitors

              • May 14th 2017 @ 6:20pm
                Train Without A Station said | May 14th 2017 @ 6:20pm | ! Report

                It would be extremely rare if the ARU made any agreement with the WA government to maintain the Force.

                I don’t know of any governing body having any sort of deal with any other state government.

    • May 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm
      Johnno said | May 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

      Okay so a team is called what the “Southern Brumbies”. This side would cover far more territory than the ST George Illawara NRL side.
      You could say Western Force cover more territory as WA is so big and Tahs cover a bigger region as do QLD, but these sides are all in same state/or territory, unlike a Brumbies/rebels merger.

      • Roar Guru

        May 11th 2017 @ 4:36pm
        biltongbek said | May 11th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

        Melbourne Brumbies or ACT Rebels 😉

        • May 11th 2017 @ 5:00pm
          Bakkies said | May 11th 2017 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

          Neither BB

        • May 11th 2017 @ 6:07pm
          Unanimous said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

          Brumbels or Rebumbies.

          Perhaps they’ll merge the Force, Brumbies and Rebels and call them the Fumbles.

          • Roar Pro

            May 12th 2017 @ 11:01am
            Crazy Horse said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

            The Tahs have first claim to that name.

          • May 13th 2017 @ 12:52pm
            superba said | May 13th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

            The Brumbles.

    • May 11th 2017 @ 12:45pm
      Jock Cornet said | May 11th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

      A merger would be a disaster

    • May 11th 2017 @ 12:48pm
      Jumbo said | May 11th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

      Welcome to the real world laurie, no body’s job is safe. We all have deadlines, we all have contracts, except we don’t earn as much as rugby players. Geez if I don’t perform I’m down the road, the pressure to perform is a day to day battle for many folk. Sorry no sympathy from me, do your jobs or go home.

      • May 11th 2017 @ 4:03pm
        Kiwi in Europe said | May 11th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        Agreed.. and the ARU should be the first heads to roll based on performance.

      • May 11th 2017 @ 6:10pm
        Unanimous said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

        Contracts. That’s part of the ARU’s problem.

      • May 13th 2017 @ 2:35pm
        Rhys Bosley said | May 13th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

        It isn’t the high paid superstars whose contracts are under threat, it is the development players on $50k and junior squad members on $75k who will be out of a career if a team gets cut. They have less job security than most of us, are developing limited transferable skills while they play rugby, can have their career ended by injury at any time and don’t get paid that well for their trouble. A little bit of sympathy wouldn’t go astray.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 4:50pm
          Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

          Rhys some of the players that aren’t on full contracts are only earning 5k

    • Roar Rookie

      May 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm
      Paul D said | May 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

      A merger is not a solution. There are only 2 options

      1. ARU cop the cost of the ensuing lawsuit to remove a team (whichever that may be).

      2. ARU and SARU go back to SANZAAR and the broadcasters and petition to keep the 18 teams in a new format which see’s Argentina join the NZ conference and Japan join Australia.

      The longer that this drags on, the more it should be option 2.

      • May 11th 2017 @ 6:18pm
        Unanimous said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

        One outcome of legal action will be an injunction to not remove a team – temporary or not depending on length and outcome of legal action.

        The only way to remove a team quickly is to pay one of them enough so that they withdraw.

        There are plenty of other options with various numbers of teams including 16 if SA teams leave but Aussie teams stay. Not that these options will occur to anyone in a position to make a difference.

      • May 12th 2017 @ 8:59am
        Deano said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Or just drop Australia altogether and have a NZ, Arg, JPN and South Africa tournament.

        The facts that forced the reduction in teams haven’t changed: the viewing numbers in Australia and South Africa are down; the public hate the format; many teams are losing money at such a rate their national union will soon be bankrupt.

        The agreement has been made and signed off. It is up to the ARU to do its job. Despite what the silly article above says, SA has accepted the need to reduce the number of teams.

        • May 12th 2017 @ 9:49am
          Browny said | May 12th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          I don’t think the ARU is in a position where they can actually do it right now considering the the legal action that has been instigated. WA and Cox don’t look like they’ll back down anytime soon; WA have served the writ/injunction and are screaming out while the Rebels have gone into full ‘no comment, we reserve all our legal rights, lawyers at 10 paces’ mode. WA won’t budge and VIC will probably go after the ARU for a huge number regardless of the outcome. This is going to get very messy.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 12th 2017 @ 9:52am
          Paul D said | May 12th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          So which SA team has put its hand up and agreed to be cut? Because it doesn’t appear that the SARU are any closer to confirming the teams to cull than Australia is.

          • May 12th 2017 @ 10:05am
            Deano said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

            South Africa has agreed that two teams need to be cut. The teams are the Kings and the Cheetahs–both attract small crowds and run at a loss. SARU’s financial situation is dire. They made a loss last season and are now in deeply in debt. Australia is heading the same way if it doesn’t bite the bullet.

            Whatever legal action is taken in Australian won’t alter the basic facts: the Super rugby format and number of teams must be changed.The ARU has agreed with SANZAAR on a course of action; it has an obligation to carry it out even if it means a legal fight with the Rebels and the Force.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 12th 2017 @ 10:57am
              Paul D said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

              Lots of people have speculated the Kings and Cheetahs, but I’m yet to see anything official from SARU. There are still all sorts of reports discussing mergers etc there also.

              And the Franchise committee is yet to make a call either way. So in reality they look no further down the track than the ARU.

              Though it must be said that at least outwardly they have a much better system in place with all teams having to present their case to the agreed criteria as opposed to only subjecting 2 teams to scrutiny.

            • Roar Guru

              May 12th 2017 @ 11:18am
              jeznez said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report


            • Roar Pro

              May 12th 2017 @ 12:46pm
              kickedmyheight said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              SARU (same as the ARU) have agreed to the cuts. South African rugby is in reality no closer actually making those cuts than Aus rugby is. They have at least been more open and inclusive in detailing the process so are more likely to achieve the cuts, however despite two teams being heavily favoured (at least in popular opinion forums) the actual decision has not been made. There is nothing to suggest that they wont still face the same kind of legal stand off as is being faced in Aus, they have just not triggered any action yet by not being far enough down the road.

              • Roar Guru

                May 12th 2017 @ 12:48pm
                Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

                Have they actually been open?

                They’ve basically listed a bunch of vague criteria with no mention of weightings or anything, right?

              • Roar Pro

                May 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm
                kickedmyheight said | May 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

                Well they have at least made an attempt to appear more open. You are probably right that in reality the process is no more open than the Aus process but they are simply trying to position themselves favourably for the litigation that is still likely to follow.

                But that could be the cynic in me coming out.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 10:39pm
                Bakkies said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                They’ve mentioned the same criteria that Clyne stated in the press conference. Of course they aren’t going to make public the findings of their investigations.

                SARU won’t publicly announce their intention to chop the Cheetahs (who are financially stable) as they have already contacted their solicitors

            • Roar Guru

              May 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm
              Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

              Where’s the press release from the SARU stating that the Kings and Cheetahs are cut?

              How will this work given the ANC pushed for the inclusion of the Kings?

              What about the potential impact to the Free State Region which produces such a huge about of SA talent?

            • May 12th 2017 @ 1:28pm
              Unanimous said | May 12th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              The ARU has clear legal obligations domestically to not cut a team. It probably has no legal obligations yet to SANZAAR to cut a team.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 4:34pm
                Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

                No it doesn’t.

                It’s claimed by a party that would be subject to said cut.

        • May 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm
          Unanimous said | May 12th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          We don’t know the legal basis of the 15 team comp. It has been anounced, but any further progress on it commercially is uncertain. It likely has not progressed past in principle agreement stage.

          The ‘facts’ have gotten worse since the anouncement – in part because of the anouncement. This doesn’t mean there are no further options.

        • May 15th 2017 @ 4:52pm
          Bakkies said | May 15th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

          The Force already have an injunction to stop the process after they didn’t get a fair chance to state their case to the ARU

    • May 11th 2017 @ 1:15pm
      Darwin Stubbie said | May 11th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      So the speculation is to blame for leaking membership, brand and poor attendances … yeah right

      • May 11th 2017 @ 6:27pm
        Unanimous said | May 11th 2017 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

        Imagine if Ford said our product range is not working and two models in particular are bad. We’ll get rid of one of the bad ones (not both) but in the meantime car yards are going to keep selling both models for at least 3 more months. Do you reckon the car yards would have a problem selling their stock?

        That is worse than poor marketing it’s actively working against sales to the point where car yards would have a claim against Ford for contributing to poor sales.

        • May 12th 2017 @ 3:31am
          Darwin Stubbie said | May 12th 2017 @ 3:31am | ! Report

          That ignores the failing attendance and poor on field performance since inception

          • May 12th 2017 @ 8:40am
            Unanimous said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

            It doesn’t ignore it. There can be multiple contributing factors, and in this case there is. Civil law applies proportionate damages.

            There is no doubt that ARU actions have contributed. Perhaps they have caused 30% of the loss of Rebels crowds. Perhaps 30% is due to poor Rebels performance, and 40% a downturn in Rugby generally. I don’t know exactly the percentages, but a court will get in some valuation experts with sports marketing experience and come up with a figure.

            • May 12th 2017 @ 10:02am
              Darwin Stubbie said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Of course there are contributing factors … but it cant be ignored that those metrics were sliding prior to the announcement. .. i can certainly understand membership wobbles – but an argument can be mounted that this is the very time attendence should be lifting if the fanbase want to send a message

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm
            Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

            Until this year the Rebels on-field performance had actually been improving.

            • Roar Pro

              May 12th 2017 @ 1:06pm
              kickedmyheight said | May 12th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              Most pre-season predictions that I saw has them finishing around third in the Aus conference (they still might, who knows).

            • May 12th 2017 @ 4:21pm
              Jacko said | May 12th 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

              Just not improving as much as the Force, unfortunately

              • May 12th 2017 @ 4:34pm
                AndyS said | May 12th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

                Wouldn’t agree with that Jacko. The two teams have had very different trajectories based on two very different starting points. For mine, it’s just unfortunate that neither of them included any sort of solid preparation from the ARU to introduce a new team, or even structural support once they had them. They just assumed that whatever they had for three would be fine for five, or just more of the same.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 4:36pm
                Train Without A Station said | May 12th 2017 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

                From last season’s level maybe.

                But in their existence the Force have only out performed the Rebels for either 1, or 2 of the seasons 2011-2012.

            • May 13th 2017 @ 10:59am
              DaveR said | May 13th 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

              Exactly right TWAS, 2016 was the Rebels best year since inception. 7 wins. Dont forget in 2016 the Rebels beat the Reds twice, the Force twice and the Waratahs once. But the team were badly marred with injuries, just like the horror 2017 season.

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