Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest says he will launch a rebel rugby competition after the Western Force lost a court challenge to stay in Super Rugby.
The Force’s future in Super Rugby would appear to be over after NSW Supreme Court Justice David Hammerschlag on Tuesday dismissed an appeal by RugbyWA against a decision backing the Australian Rugby Union’s (ARU) move to axe the Force.
The court’s decision now paves the way for the ARU to axe the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition.
Mr Forrest said he had already briefed lawyers to appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal and the High Court of Australia.
But with the chances of winning that appeal slim, Mr Forrest will now invest most of his energy into launching a rebel competition comprising six teams in the Indo-Pacific region – a direct challenge to Super Rugby governing body SANZAAR.
“We’re not giving up, even remotely,” Mr Forrest told reporters on Tuesday.
“Out of great disappointment there comes great opportunity.
“This is the beginning of the new Force, this is the beginning of the new Indo-Pacific competition and I am delighted to be an instigator of it.”
Mr Forrest said the new competition would target a region he said was poorly served by the existing competition.
“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,” he said.
“Indo-Pacific is a massive economy, broadcasters need huge populations and huge economies.”
Force great Matt Hodgson broke down in tears when he fronted the media on Tuesday, and vowed to help Mr Forrest launch the new competition.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) September 5, 2017
But Force players may now leave the franchise in their droves in order to join another Super Rugby franchise.
Force coach Dave Wessels is also unsure whether he will remain.
Wessels, who would be in high demand elsewhere, says he will talk with his family first before making a decision.
RugbyWA said it expected the ARU would now confirm termination of the Western Force’s participation in the Super Rugby competition.
“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,” RugbyWA said.
“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.”
The ARU initially moved to axe the Force from the Super Rugby competition last month after winning an arbitration case against RugbyWA.
But RugbyWA argued that the ARU had no power to axe the club because the governing body signed an “alliance” deal guaranteeing its future until the end of the broadcast deal in 2020.
But the ARU successfully argued in arbitration that the deal no longer stood because the TV rights have since been renegotiated to accommodate a reduced 15-team competition.
– with AAP