The Western Force are taking a radical route to keep their long-term future alive, giving fans the option to own a part of the club.
Following a strategy used by NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, and international football giant FC Barcelona, the Force is offering one-off 5000 $1000 ownership certificates, a move that could raise $5 million for the franchise.
The Force’s financial struggles have been well-documented and in conversations about the Super Rugby’s structure moving forward, the West Australian team has been touted as a potential casualty of any change.
One of the key arguments in speculation around the Force’s prospects of being cut from the Australian Super Rugby conference after next season, in a bid to make the tournament more competitive and cost effective, is a lack of local support for the team.
This latest move is one aimed to disprove that notion, the latest in a number of fan initiatives in recent weeks to try and keep the club out of danger.
Fan owners will have voting rights and power of approval over the reappointment of crucial positions within the franchise and a say in match day activities.
They would also receive discounts on their own memberships and registration fees in local rugby.
Rugby WA President Hans Sauder said they wanted to engage the grassroots in order to keep the franchise alive.
“The introduction of the Western Force into the Super Rugby competition took the profile and interest in the code in Western Australia to a whole other level. We hope that Western Australians will join us once again as we fight to save the Western Force,” he said.
New Force coach David Wessels said any potential exclusion from Super Rugby would be a ‘disservice’ to the state.
“We hope our fans get behind this initiative because Western Australia losing the opportunity to participate in the toughest and highest profile international provincial sporting competition in the world is a disservice to anyone who loves sport in Western Australia, not just rugby,” he said.
Force fans started a change.org petition last week to ensure their club’s survival, amid Super Rugby reviews, a document that has been signed by more than 1800 people at the time of writing, including at least one high-profile former Force and Wallabies representative.
SANZAAR executives are set for a meeting in mid-November about the future of Super Rugby and possible conference changes in the longer term.
While it is not believed a final call will be made on the look of the competition from 2018 onwards at that meeting, the Force is clearly trying to make sure any decision is not a fait accompli.