Axing Force best decision for Australian rugby: Pulver

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

With all the facts, figures and analysis in front of them, Bill Pulver and the ARU board made the decision that revoking the Force's Super Rugby licence was the best outcome for the future of the code in Australia.

Australian rugby fans wanted one question answered at this afternoon's dramatic press conference - why the Force?

In response, Pulver offered this explanation.

"We did an exhaustive analysis, a massive spreadsheet on all the variables that went into this decision," Pulver explained.

"Some of them community-based, some of them high performance-based and frankly, at the end of the day, the best decision for Australian rugby was to remove the Western Force.

"Financially it made the most sense and from a high performance perspective it made the most sense."

The very public, highly emotional campaign from the west, one that was a stark contrast to relatively reserved Rebels tact, was led in the last strides by mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, but it was not enough to save the Force.

That, in part, was due to Forrest's late arrival on the scene, according to ARU chairman Cameron Clyne.

"The Force have run a very enthusiastic and public campaign," Clyne said.

"It’d be wrong to assume there wasn’t that level of enthusiasm in Melbourne, there was.

"There has been a lot of public support and genuine financial support from people in Melbourne that have come out and while we do appreciate people like Andrew getting involved, it came very late in the piece.

"Part of the issue is the Force were virtually bankrupt and had to be bailed out (last year), this (restructure) was announced in April.

"His involvement’s come late in the piece.

"Even having said that, we factored in the assumption that the Own the Force campaign would reach its limit, although it hasn’t.

"We factored that in and it was still a significantly better financial outcome - the support coming out of Melbourne."

When asked whether the Force may be revived when the new broadcasting deal rolls around, in 2020, Clyne would not offer a concrete response.

"I know a lot of people talk about desires for better competition structures, that are more appealing and that are more engaging - us going to four teams gives us a significant chance of getting that delivered," Clyne said.

"Staying at five teams would have virtually ended the prospect of us having better Super Rugby constructs going forward.

"We have to look at the very clear correlation between performance and revenue.

"We haven't made any decisions as to what will happen with the next broadcast deal, however we will be very mindful of saying that any teams that go into the next broadcast deal from an Australian perspective, have to go in there with a very strong view of winning.

"We have to be very careful that the Australian teams are performing so we retain some ability to have influence over those competition structures in the future.

"If people don't think Australia is worthy of playing from a high performance perspective we will not have the ability to influence what will be good outcomes for Australian rugby."

Ultimately, Clyne took the conversation back to providing better funding for grassroots rugby and national teams such as the Australian U20s and Wallaroos, which are currently severely underfunded in comparison to other strong rugby nations.

"Our Wallaroos were extraordinary yesterday, only just losing by two points, they deserve a lot more financial support and they're not getting that support," Clyne said.

"Nor is community rugby, nor is schools rugby, so we are saying look, we need to reallocate some of those resources.

"We looked at the mergers in close detail, they don't work so one team had to suffer.

"But you tell me, what other part of rugby would you choose to suffer

"That's the reality.

"This is not based on one season, this is based on multiple seasons of losses and financial performance."

This article reflects the views of the authors, not necessarily those of the ARU or its affiliated unions or teams.