Force cut after arbitration finds in favour of ARU

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips and Beth Newman

The Western Force says it will not give up its fight for survival just yet, despite the ARU's announcement that the Perth franchise will be cut from Super Rugby in 2018.

RugbyWA released a statement on Friday afternoon, indicating the club would be looking at all its options after arbitration came back in favour of the national body, confident in its resources with the backing of figures such as mining billionaire Andrew Forrest.

"RugbyWA remains committed to pursuing every possible means to ensure the Western Force remains a Super Rugby team in Perth," the statement read.

"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.

"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 Rugby Union Players' Association CEO Ross Xenos didn't hide his feelings in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

“Today's is the darkest day in the history of Australian rugby with the custodian of the game confirming their desire to end the tenure of the Western Force and abandoning the game's national footprint," Xenos said in a statement.

"The future of professional rugby in Western Australia will now be the collateral damage of the decision making of the ARU and SANZAAR to expand Super Rugby to a convoluted and complicated 18 team structure against various advice and modelling received which explained the associated risks."

RUPA has launched a petition to keep five Australian teams in Super Rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesXenos said RUPA would work to ensure that any player's contract would be honoured.

“Players, staff and their families at the Western Force have been put under unprecedented and, quite frankly, completely unreasonable duress throughout this ridiculous and destructive process."

“RUPA has and will continue to provide any support that is necessary for all players affected by the ARU's decision.

"We have staff in Perth and are in regular contact with all contracted players at the Force and their respective agents. RUPA will do whatever it takes to ensure that players' contractual rights are honoured and no player is unfairly disadvantaged by the ARU’s decision.

“The people of Western Australia have campaigned fairly, passionately and with integrity in order to show that the Western Force deserve to have a place in Super Rugby. That campaign has fallen on deaf ears. We understand that Rugby WA are considering their legal position from this point forward and we respect their rights to explore such avenues."

EARLIER

In a statement this afternoon, ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said the governing body had "today made the decision to discontinue the Western Force."

“This has been a complex process to reduce Australia’s Super Rugby representation to four teams as agreed by SANZAAR following its review of the competition," Clyne said.

“We are regretful that this issue has consumed so much of the public commentary on the game in 2017.

"It was clearly not our intention for this to play out over such a lengthy period however there have been factors outside the ARU’s control that have prevented us from completing the process.ARU chairman Cameron Clyne will address media this afternoon. Photo: Getty Images“Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes.

“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.

Clyne said the ARU hoped the game would not be abandoned in Western Australia and that a clear pathway still remains for young rugby players in WA.

“This is a sad day for Rugby, especially for Western Force fans," he said.The Force are likely to appeal the decision. Photo: Getty Images"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.

“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.

“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.”

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