It’s official: Western Force cut by ARU, Bill Pulver steps down

Daniel Jeffrey Editor

By Daniel Jeffrey, Daniel Jeffrey is a Roar Editor

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    The ARU have made the decision to discontinue the Western Forces’ Super Rugby license, and Bill Pulver has announced he will step down as ARU CEO once a replacement is found.

    ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said the decision to cut the Force, which came after “several weeks of consultation” with a number of rugby stakeholders, was a financial one.

    » Reaction to the decision to cut the Force

    “Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes,” Clyne said.

    “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.

    “Furthermore, the significant unbudgeted support funding that has been provided to Super Rugby teams over the past five years has greatly affected our capacity to invest in community rugby.”

    However, the Force don’t seem likely to accept the decision, with a messy battle looming after Rugby WA said in a statement they remain “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 into the Alliance Agreement with the ARU,” the statement read.

    “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 AO we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia.”

    The Melbourne Rebels and Force were identified as the two Australian teams facing the axe early in April after SANZAAR’s decision to change Super Rugby from an 18 to 15-team competition in 2018 back in April.

    Clyne acknowledged the decision will not be a welcome one in Western Australia, but maintained rugby will not be abandoned in the state.

    “This is a sad day for rugby, especially for Western Force fans. 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,” Clyne said.

    “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.

    “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.”

    A press conference has been called by the ARU for this afternoon at 5:30pm, when Clyne and Bill Pulver will speak about the decision.

    Keep it locked on The Roar as we continue to cover this breaking story.

    Daniel Jeffrey
    Daniel Jeffrey

    Daniel is Editor of The Roar. You can catch him on Twitter @_d_jeffrey.

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    The Crowd Says (301)

    • Roar Guru

      August 11th 2017 @ 4:19pm
      John R said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

      This is officially terrible.

      Dark day for Aus rugby.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:43pm
        Fred said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

        Australian rugby union is now officially dead. That’s what happens when it’s run by headless chooks.

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2017 @ 5:19pm
          Machooka said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

          I agree!

          • Roar Rookie

            August 11th 2017 @ 6:39pm
            MelbourneForceFan said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:39pm | ! Report


            This lil chook is sad

            • Roar Guru

              August 11th 2017 @ 7:15pm
              Machooka said | August 11th 2017 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

              Hopefully not headless just yet eh!?!

          • August 11th 2017 @ 6:57pm
            Boomeranga said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

            Why stay in super rugby rather than back our own mate.

            A simple Australian comp where all the good players get poached overseas is better than losing a whole community of rugby fans.

            I don’t give a shirt if the wallabies drop to number 40. Either rugby is the game it bangs on about itself to be, or it’s not. Tonight it’s not. It’s a complete f’ fraud.

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2017 @ 10:09pm
        Train Without A Station said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

        Have to agree with RUPA.

        Darkest day in Australian Rugby.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:03pm
        Realist said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:03pm | ! Report

        Sometimes when faced with survival – tough decisions need to be made.
        The ARU have been piss weak throughout the Pulver years but I have to applaud them in having the guts to make the right call.
        This isn’t the end for the Force and now that it has happened I genuinely feel for their fans.
        When rugby regathers its strength again, every effort will be made to reinstate them in the premier Southern Hemisphere comp. what needs to happen now is to get them onboard in another professional competition. Guys like Lowrens are proof there are quality juniors coming through and I don’t think NRC will suffice to keep a lot of the fans in the game. This should be the next challenge of the ARU or WARU

    • August 11th 2017 @ 4:20pm
      Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:20pm | ! Report



      Hope an appeal occurs.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:32pm
        Bakkies said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Yep and a lawsuit.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 4:37pm
          Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

          Despite being a Brumbies fan, I feel betrayed by this as an Australian fan foremost. This can’t be in the interest of Australian rugby, WA is one of the few places that interest in rugby seems to be increasing.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 4:40pm
            ajg said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

            as a Tahs fan, I absolutely agree with you Fionn

            This decision is the narrow minded one at the level of Australian rugby as a whole

            These words:

            “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”

            Just don’t make any sense when you consider the growing involvement over there. these words are hollow and I just feel like this is really going to kill the game in this country 🙁

            • August 11th 2017 @ 4:52pm
              ojp said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

              yes, the clear pathway is the same as it was back in the 80’s / 90’s for aspiring WA based players… relocate to the East Coast and take your chances.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm
                piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                To be fair it did produce 1 Wallaby

              • August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm
                Adam said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

                As a Brumbies fan I can’t believe the decision. Would have made more sense to cut us before the Force

              • August 11th 2017 @ 6:18pm
                The Slow Eater said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                As a Rebels fan I don’t think they should’ve removed any team and really feel for the Force and their supporters. To take away a pathway for up and coming players is terrible and appears short sighted.

                Might have made more sense to merge Brumbies and Rebels.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 9:27pm
            Ozrugga said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

            You cant pay for the game with growth rates.

      • Roar Pro

        August 11th 2017 @ 6:14pm
        Crazy Horse said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

        There will be further legal action. Already prepared and ready to go.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 6:47pm
          Perthstayer said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

          It’s not over by a long chalk.

          I am very encouraged (surprised) by such a hard focus from Clyne on it being a financially based decision.

          I think this plays into WF’s hands for when they’re in front of Supreme Court. We are not a $ drain on ARU and our disappearance would not bring more $ to the ARU.

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2017 @ 9:19pm
            Train Without A Station said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

            No. Those comments won’t make one iota of difference.

            Any legal action will not be able the culling criteria.

            The ARU owns the Force’s licence. They can essentially do what they want with it (within reason).

            All other franchises own their licences so can only be compelled to sell.

            Any legal action will be based on the ARU complying with the Alliance Agreement.

            Today it appears an independent person has judged they have. Depending on the terms of the arbitration, we will see what occurs from here. There’s a good chance the appeal could only be on the grounds of an error of law.

            What is likely though is the loss at arbitration will make it difficult to achieve any interim injunction. Which will mean they are fighting from outside the tent from now on, not inside.

            I would expect any other potential legal action to be based on the circumstances of the ARU acquiring the Force’s licence.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 4:21pm
      riddler said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

      sorry to the force players and their fans..

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2017 @ 9:20pm
        Train Without A Station said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

        It’s a sad day to lose 20% of professional rugby in Australia and a number of fans who have invested as much as a decade of support.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 4:22pm
      Nicolai said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

      Dammit!!! 🙁 🙁
      Was hoping for many more close games between REBELS and FORCE.
      All my sympathy with the FORCE – players/coaches/fans/members/sponsors

    • August 11th 2017 @ 4:24pm
      Haradasun said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

      Such a terrible decision. The whole super rugby format has had its day and this is the nail in the coffin.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm
        Fred said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

        Absolutely. Should have LEFT Super Rugby, kept the Force, added a couple of extra teams and have a national competition, with games and rivalries that are actually meaningful to casual fans. I couldn’t give a toss about super rugby any more, including the Waratahs (I’m a New South Welshman)

        • August 11th 2017 @ 11:06pm
          AnD said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

          I would love that (Brumbies fan) but nobody is paying to watch that comp unfortunately. They can’t afford the players they have now and unless everyone takes a pay cut to grow the domestic comp by another 3 sides it will not work. Especially when the only blokes who make the Wallabies are still from NSW again.

    • Roar Guru

      August 11th 2017 @ 4:25pm
      Scott Pryde said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

      Always a shame to see teams getting cut from competitions, but if it’s going to improve the whole Super Rugby structure and level of talent across the Australian teams, it’s hard to argue that it’ll be for the greater good in the long run.

      Still, a very sad day for the Force and their fans.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:45pm
        Dave_S said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        Scott, by that logic we should cut 4 teams …

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm
        ajg said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

        but if those are the arguments then I think cutting the Force is the worst decision for multiple reasons:

        1. geographically speaking they are the only representative over on the west coast; there are four teams on the east coast – so cutting one of them makes more sense otherwise you literally loss an entire state

        2. rugby is a growing sport in WA, this decision is a massive middle finger to this grass roots movement which I just cant imagine wont have negative long term effects, not only in WA but also elsewhere

        3. if talent preservation is the aim, then home grown and developed players = a big criteria. WA have just started bringing in great players not only to their ranks but also to the wallabies. So cutting the Force now is sacrificing all this development just as it is finally paying off

        4. In the face of real adversity this year, the Force have played with more guts than any other aussie team. They’ve played like proper aussies with their backs against the wall; and not capitulated like the rebels. And instead of rewarding them for showing guts and realising this potential we just get rid of them. I can’t see those players being well disposed to any other team – the talent pool will shrink


        [apologies for ranting, not aimed at u but at the suits upstairs; and am just upset]

        • August 11th 2017 @ 5:14pm
          Falco said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

          No rant arg. Exactly how I feel. I am shocked!! Absolutely pathetic reasoning by the ARU! Just watch AFL swamp WA now – ARU have chucked rugby under the bus!

        • August 12th 2017 @ 11:12am
          Kiwi in us said | August 12th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Ajg, I have no skin in this but I totally agree with your number four about playing like real Aussies. I’m almost 50 and I spent six months in North Queensland as a young bloke and then spent three years in the uk and played rugby with Aussies and drank a lot of beer with them. My overall impression was a never give up attitude of the Aussie men I encountered. I’m saying I identify with that as being the Aussie way.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:55pm
        Dave_S said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

        “it’s hard to argue that it’ll be for the greater good in the long run.”

        Scott I should check – did you mean that, or “… it’s NOT hard to argue…”?

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2017 @ 4:57pm
          Scott Pryde said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

          Not – definitely meant to write not hard to argue, because, if it’s going to spread the talent out over 4 instead of 5 and make the Aussie SR teams competitive again… Then it’s obviously the right decision.

          Whether they got the team right? Who knows. It would appear not judging by the reaction on this thread.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm
            Dave_S said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

            Yeah not a good day for sticking your head above the parapet. Head off to the pub for a month or so until it dies down a bit 🙂

            • Roar Rookie

              August 11th 2017 @ 5:07pm
              piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

              I’m a little too unstable now to tear you apart without resorting to profanity

              Just know that you’re wrong

              • August 11th 2017 @ 5:22pm
                Alex Forbes said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                Even if the 4 teams improve, noone will be watching.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 5:22pm
                Alex Forbes said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

              • August 11th 2017 @ 5:55pm
                Dave_S said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

                piru I’m assuming you intended to direct that to Scott, not me – I’m on your side, mate.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 11th 2017 @ 6:04pm
                piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

                yes mate definitely, should have said so, sorry

              • August 12th 2017 @ 12:02am
                matt jones said | August 12th 2017 @ 12:02am | ! Report

                no piru, you are biased sand wrong
                * 2006 – 14th (1 win, 2 draws, 10 losses)
                * 2007 – 7th (6-1-6)
                * 2008 – 8th (7-0-6)
                * 2009 – 8th (6-1-6)
                * 2010 – 13th (4-0-9)
                * 2011 – 12th (5-2-9)
                * 2012 – 14th (3-0-13)
                * 2013 – 13th (4-1-11)
                * 2014 – 8th (9-0-7)
                * 2015 – 15th (3-0-13)
                * 2016 – 16th (2-0-13)
                * 2017 – 12th (6-0-9)

              • August 12th 2017 @ 12:51am
                Piru said | August 12th 2017 @ 12:51am | ! Report

                Matt people are ignoring you for a reason

                Jog on

              • August 12th 2017 @ 6:13am
                Buk said | August 12th 2017 @ 6:13am | ! Report

                My kiwi mates will tell you, after only a reasonable but not outstanding start (came fourth out of 12 in their second year), for 7 years they were very average, despite having some of international rugby’s best attackers (Cullen, Lomu, Umaga) & a very large talent pool.
                Not until Colin Cooper came to coach them, that they began to regularly appear in semi or quarter finals, and even then, it still took them 20 years before they won a title.

                Sometimes you have to take a long term view.

                To me, with the game apparently growing in WA, it seems the suggestion by others of amalgamating the Rebels and Brumbies so that games are shared between Melbourne / Canberra would have been the best of a bad situation – at least it would have ensured Super Rugby was a fixture in 5 states instead of cutting WA adrift.

                (Incidentally I am first and foremost a Queensland supporter)

              • August 13th 2017 @ 9:53am
                Akari said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

                If a cut had to be made and as a Brumbies supporter, I agree Buk that the Brumbies should either have merged with or taken over the Rebels franchise. Australian rugby is the loser in this rather appalling decision. To make it worse, a useless Japanese team is kept in super rugby. Stupid and dumb ARU.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 5:35pm
            Dave said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

            You mean Europe and Japan will get those extra players?

            Nobody complained about too many teams when the Reds and Tahs won. Maybe the reason the sport is going down the drain is because fewer and fewer kids are playing?

            Couldn’t possibly be any way of getting any talent from a city of two million people with only two other major teams?

          • Roar Rookie

            August 11th 2017 @ 6:08pm
            Kirky said | August 11th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

            Scott ~ Very negative mate, I only just hope the current Western Force players tell every other useless Franchise in Australia to stick their teams and head right out of Australia, Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand or anywhere else as long as it’s not in the defunct Australian rugby environment!

            Rugby in Australia is a non event from today, it was bad prior to this disgusting outcome but with Management with agendas as the current ones have, rugby Aussie’ is now a non event!

            Furthermore the complete rugby World will be laughing at this decision!

            • August 12th 2017 @ 12:01am
              Realist said | August 12th 2017 @ 12:01am | ! Report

              Poor Kirky,
              There is no longer a token Perth side to host the favourite visiting kiwi sides you love so much
              Let me guess – you probably describe yourself as grassroots of WA?

              • August 13th 2017 @ 9:56am
                Akari said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                A rather defeatist and bizarre post if you’re an Australian, Realist.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 5:42pm
        Bravo said | August 11th 2017 @ 5:42pm | ! Report


        Super Rugby is a rotting carcus that is so close to death it is impossible to save. As I see it, it is pretty pointless the Australians doing something to save it when the New Zealanders aren’t interested in saving it and niether are South Africans. Unfortunately, if this decision is carried out, all it does mean is RIP to rugby union in WA because other football codes are going to seize the opportunity to disrupt the development of Rugby Union in WA, something that was much harder, even impossible to do when the Force were operating. The Force would have been a self supporting team in another decade providing a stream of future Wallabies.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 9:30pm
        Septuagenarian said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

        Twinkle twinkle little star

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