The Australian Rugby Union are refusing to budge on their decision to axe the Western Force, but have agreed to help billionaire Andrew Forrest develop a new international competition.
Forrest met with ARU officials in Adelaide on Tuesday in a bid to get them to overturn their decision to axe the Force.
The chairman of Fortescue Metals claims he made an “unprecedented financial offer” to ensure the future of rugby as a national sport and to guarantee the future of the Force.
But his “unconditional guarantee” that there would be no financial risk to the ARU if it was to retain the Force in Super Rugby fell on deaf ears.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne, and board members John Eales and Brett Robinson represented Australian rugby’s governing body at the meeting.
Former Wallaby John Welborn and former ARU board member Geoff Stooke were at the meeting to help Forrest push his case.
But while the ARU didn’t budge when it came to their Super Rugby decision, they are apparently willing to help Forrest create an Asian rugby competition for the Force to participate in.
Representatives of Forrest released a statement saying: “The ARU committed to working with the Western Force … to develop a new international competition.
“This will be based in Western Australia, with a focus firmly on the Indo Pacific region and a time zone that WA shares.
“This is a region containing 60 per cent of the world’s population, which has a burgeoning appetite for participation in international sport.”
The Force’s preference is to stay in Super ranks.
Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry believes this will be the best way to help Australian rugby dig itself out of its current hole.
RugbyWA, backed by Forrest, are appealing the Force’s axing to the NSW Supreme Court.
They will find out on Wednesday whether their appeal will go ahead.
It’s unclear how much money Forrest offered to the ARU on Tuesday.
But the ARU said their hands were simply tied after SANZAAR had already eliminated the prospect of having a 16-team Super competition for a number of reasons.
“These factors included the extensive cost and limited appeal of a 16-team round-robin competition, player welfare issues due to extra travel requirements, and the loss of popular home and away ‘derbies’ in each country,” Clyne said.
“We were genuinely appreciative of Andrew’s generous offer to back the Western Force and Australian Rugby.
“However, given the position we are in, we are unable to work towards retaining five teams in Super Rugby.
“Andrew brings a lot of innovative thinking to the table and we discussed a number of possibilities for the future of the game.
“Some of this discussion focused on competitions and the pathways for young players to the highest levels of the game, the community game and women’s rugby.”
It’s understood that during the meeting, the ARU confirmed the future participation of WA rugby teams in an expanded National Rugby Championships competition.
Western Australian Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds says she will call for a Senate Inquiry into the ARU’s decision to cull the Western Force.
And the WA State Government has threatened to sue the ARU for more than $100 million as compensation for all the money they poured into redeveloping nib Stadium and building the Force’s headquarters.