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Exclusive: Rebels threaten Civil War as peace talks with RA end in another blow for Super Rugby

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22nd March, 2024
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The Super Rugby Pacific season threatens to be overshadowed by the threat of civil war in Australian rugby after Rugby Australia on Friday walked away from the negotiating table with the Melbourne Rebels, ending any chance the club had of reaching a financial settlement with the national body.

RA’s decision to call all bets off with the Rebels is understood to have stunned one of Australia’s most high-profile corporate figures, former Qantas chairman and Rio Tinto executive Leigh Clifford, who was one of the Rebels representatives at Friday’s meeting with RA.

In ending the mediation talks, RA has effectively called the Rebels board’s bluff on threats to launch legal action for about $8 million the Rebels are claimed to be owed by RA in underpayments and to cover the cost of wages for Rebels players while on Wallabies’ duty.

The Melbourne Rebels were beaten on the field against the Hurricanes in Palmerston North. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

However, one source suggested that rather than back down, the Rebels would now start “a civil war” – indicating they planned to drag RA into a drawn-out court battle.

The Rebels’ board was hoping to squeeze a financial settlement out of RA to help fund a deal to its creditors owed about $22 million, known as a deed of company arrangement (DOCA) to present to the voluntary administrator appointed by the club in January. If creditors approved the DOCA, it would have enabled the Rebels to avoid being wound up by a liquidator.

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