RugbyWA enters voluntary administration

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips and Beth Newman

Rugby Australia has hit back at suggestions it forced RugbyWA into voluntary administration, by demanding outstanding legal costs.

Rugby AU released a statement late on Friday night, 'to set the record straight' over their demands of Rugby WA, since the West Australians lost their appeal against the Force's Super Rugby axing.

Reports on Friday suggested Rugby AU was demanding as much as $2 million in legal costs over the saga, an amount that would cripple Rugby WA, but a Rugby AU statement said the total cost was $1.7 million, with the national body asking for less than one-third of that, and with still more possibility of negotiation.

Rugby Australia CEO Bill Pulver said he didn't feel like the discussions were done.

“We respect the RugbyWA Board’s position but it is important to set the record straight that today’s decision by the RugbyWA Board to place the organisation into receivership is not the result of any action by Rugby Australia," he said.

Bill Pulver will step down imminently. Photo: Getty Images"Our view is that we were still in a negotiation to settle on costs awarded to Rugby Australia by the NSW Supreme Court.

“Our focus is on pursuing the high net-worth individuals that made commitments to RugbyWA to fund their legal battle and we are continuing to seek only a portion of the total costs."

Pulver also claimed RugbyWA had suggested cutting its community funding to reduce the debt, something the governing body refused.

“We have specifically rejected a RugbyWA proposal to have their community funding reduced to offset some of this cost, and in fact, plan on increasing its community funding.

“Ultimately, this is 1.7 million dollars of cost to the game and this legal cost cannot come at the expense of the community game.” 

RugbyWA have entered voluntary administration after the governing body was unable to pay fees owed to Rugby Australia and the WA Government.

In a statement released Friday, a RugbyWA spokesman said the organisation was unable to pay $1.4 million owed to the WA Government for the 2009 upgrade of nib Stadium, on top of legal fees owed to Rugby AU.

Rugby AU were seeking reimbursement for legal fees after a lengthy Supreme Court battle between the two parties, triggered by the removal of the Western Force from Australia's Super Rugby contingent.

"RugbyWA does not have the financial capacity to meet this demand," the RugbyWA spokesman said in a statement.The Force have entered voluntary administration. Photo: Getty Images"With the support of Mr Andrew Forrest, RugbyWA has attempted to settle this issue with Rugby Australia without success.

"As the Board of RugbyWA has not been able to resolve the issue of costs with Rugby Australia, the board was left with no prudent alternative but to place the organisation into voluntary administration."

Speaking to media today, RugbyWA chairman Tony Howarth said placing the organisation into voluntary administration was the most "prudent course of action".

"It's become necessary really because we're facing a likely insolvency event with Rugby Australia advising its intention to pursue RugbyWA for significant costs with its successful legal action to remove the Western Force from Super Rugby," Howarth said.

"With support from Andrew Forrest, RugbyWA has tried to settle the matter with Rugby Australia but without success.The Force are hopeful this will not affect Forrest's IPRC. Photo: Walmsley"We just hope through the voluntary administration we can achieve a restructure for RugbyWA in the best interest of creditors and the great sport of rugby in Western Australia."

Howarth said the latest blow to the code in Australia's west would not stop rugby remaining strong in WA.

"Rugby will continue to be strong in Western Australia and there's a huge amount of support here," he said.

"There's still a lot of anger and a sense of betrayal towards the Australian Rugby Union but that won't take away the love of the game for people and we've got people like Andrew Forrest who are absolutely intent on ensuring rugby survives and grows in Western Australia."

In a statement, a Rugby AU spokesman said negotiations are ongoing.

"It is premature to comment," the spokesman said.

"Negotiations between Rugby Australia and RugbyWA are ongoing."

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