Cox and Rebels up for a fight

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels are adamant they will not sell their licence back to the ARU, with a statement on Friday night explicitly ruling out that possibility.

Melbourne released the strongly-worded statement on Friday night, their first unequivocal public indication that they would not sell the licence back to the ARU.

Multiple players have said publicly that Cox had assured them he would never sell the licence back if it meant the end of the Rebels.

Though there had been reports the ARU was working with Cox to buy the licence for a reported $6 million, this move probably won't come as a surprise to the governing body.

Former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom has also been touted as a potential Rebels saviour in recent days, and that would still remain an option.

"The ARU must come out and publicly put an end to the speculation," the statement read.
"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, neither the Melbourne Rebels nor its owners will engage with the ARU in relation to the sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence."

The Rebels have already threatened legal action as the saga dragged on and assistant coach Morgan Turinui teed off at the governing body earlier this week over their inaction.

The statement also hinted at the longer-term effects of the limbo, saying the speculation was affecting all areas of the club.

"The ongoing speculation concerning our future has tested the resolve of the club, our sponsors, our members and our fans," the statement read.

"The ARU actions are not only impacting our 2017 season, they are now impacting our 2018 season."

The Rebels fans turned out for their team on Saturday night. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe statement comes two days after the VRU and RUPA voted for an Extraordinary general meeting for clarity on the process.

The ARU responded with a proposal for a meeting to be held within the next week, with an EGM requiring 21 days' notice.

Despite that, RUPA president Dean Mumm maintained they'd be pushing for an EGM regardless of next week's outcome, an intriguing move given voting abilities of an EGM.

The move puts the heat back on the Western Force, who have their own legal battles with the ARU, when it comes to axing an Australian team.

Victoria's government added its public support to the Melbourne franchise on Friday night, with Sports minister John Eren realising a statement backing the franchise.

"A Super Rugby franchise in Melbourne is crucial for the growth of the game in Victoria, which is why the Government is working with the Melbourne Rebels, the Victorian Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union to ensure the club remains in the competition going forward," the statement read.

"The Victorian Government believes any decision to withdraw the Melbourne Rebels from the Super Rugby competition would be a retrograde step by the Australian Rugby Union."

"The governing body regularly turns to Melbourne for the big blockbuster events, such as British and Irish Lions tours and the Bledisloe Cup. Victoria has played a pivotal role in the evolution of the sport, so it would seem incongruent to withdraw the presence of ongoing, professional rugby from the state." 

The Rebels take on the Waratahs on Sunday afternoon, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on radio at RUGBY.com.au.

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