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.
“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.