Forrest meeting 'constructive' but Force still set for Super Rugby axe

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by AAP & Beth Newman

The Force may not be in Super Rugby in 2018, but the odds of them surviving in some way look stronger than ever, according to billionaire backer Andrew Forrest.

Forrest met with ARU chairman Cameron Clyne and deputy chairman Brett Robinson in Adelaide on Tuesday, in a bid to overturn their decision to axe the side from Super Rugby.

It is believed the WA businessman offered the national body an amount to the tune of $50 million for grassroots investment to keep the Force alive,  though no dollar figure has been officially confirmed, but the ARU representatives turned him down. 

RugbyWA and the ARU will still face off in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday as the state body applies to appeal the arbitration decision that fell in the ARU's favour a fortnight ago.

While the national body didn't move on that decision, Forrest released a statement on Tuesday night saying the governing body committed to helping the side create a new international competition, involving the Pacific region.

"The ARU committed to working with the Western Force ... to develop a new international competition," he said in the statement.

"This will be based in Western Australia, with a focus firmly on the Indo Pacific region and a time zone that WA shares.

"This is a region containing 60 per cent of the world's population, which has a burgeoning appetite for participation in international sport.

"This commitment was made regardless of the outcome of the appeal hearings in the Supreme Court." 

While the ARU was less specific in its statement, chiarman Cameron Clyne said the meeting had been 'constructive.

"We had a long discussion with Andrew today and have provided in detail the position of the ARU and the factors that have led to our decision to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence," he said.

“While we fundamentally disagreed on the number of teams in Super Rugby, we had an extremely constructive session and have agreed to work together to ensure that Rugby has a strong future in Western Australia."

Andrew Forrest addressing the Force players after the game. Photo: Getty ImagesClyne said Forrest had brought some new ideas to the discussion on Tuesday.

“Andrew brings a lot of innovative thinking to the table and we discussed a number of possibilities for the future of the game. 

"Some of this discussion focussed on competitions and the pathways for young players to the highest levels of the game, the community game and women’s Rugby.

“We look forward to engaging further with Andrew and RugbyWA and sharing the plans with WA’s passionate Rugby community.

Clyne said the ARU's hands were tied in terms of reducing the Australian contingent in Super Rugby, with SANZAAR's member unions having already voted to reduce the competition to 15 teams.

“We were genuinely appreciative of Andrew’s generous offer to back the Western Force and Australian Rugby, however, given the position we are in we are unable to work towards retaining five teams in Super Rugby.

“We are at the final stages of this process and Australian Rugby’s constituents have voted to reduce Australia’s Super Rugby representation to four teams and we have made commitments to SANZAAR," he said.

“We were asked about the possibilities of retaining the Western Force in a 16-team Super Rugby competition, however a 16-team competition was eliminated by SANZAAR during its review process based on a number of factors.

"These factors included the extensive cost and limited appeal of a 16-team round-robin competition, player welfare issues due to extra travel requirements, and the loss of popular home and away ‘derbies’ in each country.

“Our decision to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence is subject to appeal and we await the outcome of this process before making any further comment on the matter.”