Billionaire Western Force backer Andrew Forrest has said he will set up a rebel competition for the cut franchise to play in after RugbyWA’s Supreme Court appeal to stay in Super Rugby failed.
Justice David Hammerschlag dismissed the Force’s appeal against the arbitration ruling last month which went in favour of the ARU, allowing the game’s governing body to cut the Perth-based franchise.
The decision, which can be read in full here, centred around whether the Alliance Agreement between the ARU and Force came to an end when the SANZAAR broadcast rights were renegotiated in July to accommodate a 15-team Super Rugby competition.
The Alliance Agreement had guaranteed the survival of the Force until the end of 2020.
Much like Bernard Coles QC, who ruled the new broadcast agreement nullified the Alliance Agreement, Justice Hammerschlag ruled in favour of the ARU, noting that the governing body owns the franchise and “can do with it what it likes, even destroy it” if the alliance ends.
However, the Force aren’t dead just yet, with mining magnate Forrest saying he would set up a new competition in the Indo-Pacific region for the Force to play in, likely to comprise six teams.
“We will include strong and deeply powerful players, broadcasters and fans of rugby all across the Indo-Pacific region, where some 60 per cent of the world’s people live on our time-frame right here in Western Australia,” Forrest said.
“Indo-Pacific is is a massive economy, broadcasters need huge populations and huge economies.
“They are not represented in SANZAAR necessarily with New Zealand, South Africa and Australia dominating it. But if we get up into the Indo-Pacific region, that’s where all the world’s economic growth is, that’s where the world’s population is and that’s where the game of rugby will be very powerful and centred from Western Australia.”
Forrest also stated he had already briefed lawyers for further appeals to the NSW Court of Appeal and High Court of Australia.
The Force had responded to the decision with an earlier statement, unsurprisingly saying they were “disappointed” with the result of the appeal.
“This now means the ARU have the ability to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition,” the statement read.
“Based on previous correspondence we are expecting the ARU to confirm the termination of the Western Force’s participation in the Super Rugby competition. We understand that the ARU intend to continue with the Perth Spirit in the National Rugby Championship.”
RugbyWA also repeated their claim that the ARU had made the decision that the Force was the only team that could be cut back in February.
“As we understand, the ARU had formed the view in February this year that the Western Force were the only team that could legally be removed from the competition, for the ARU to suggest there was an objective and transparent process, evaluating the merits of both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, was misleading and disrespectful to both RugbyWA and the Victorian Rugby Union.
“This has caused significant damage to both the game and the Super Rugby competition and reflects poorly on the ARU’s own values of honesty and integrity.”