RUPA "bewildered" by call to knock back Forrest $50 million

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

RUPA CEO Ross Xenos has emphatically backed the future of the Force, adding that he is "bewildered" by the ARU's rejection of Andrew Forrest's $50 million.

Xenos spoke in Perth today, after news the Force were successful in lodging an appeal in the Supreme Court filtered out.

"We are completely supportive of the appeal action from Rugby WA and we strongly believe in the continuation of five professional Super Rugby teams as being in the best interests of rugby in Australia," Xenos said.

"In addition to that we are deeply disappointed, we are surprised and bewildered at the fact that a very generous offer to secure the long term future of the grassroots game was not - as far as we are aware - was not deeply consulted or engaged with by the ARU yesterday.

"The offer from Andrew Forrest, which was somewhere in the vicinity of $50 million, will not be provided to grassroots rugby and that is something we feel was an opportunity for the game to put itself back on financial footing and to save the game, rather than saving face."The Force are up for the fight. Photo: Getty ImagesShould Rugby WA's appeal of the arbitration decision get up, the ARU will be forced to go back to SANZAAR without a team to cut from the 2018 competition.

Based on the information at hand, Xenos said that remains a viable option.


"There hasn't been a great deal of transparency as to the entire process that has unfolded here," he said.

"I think that makes it difficult to know what commitments have and haven't been made.

"The ARU still has the capacity in our view, based on our understanding, to revert to SANZAAR, with the position that we will retain all of our five teams.

"Clearly, if the Western Force is successful in the arbitration, that's what they will be doing."The Force are fighting the ARU's call to axe them. Photo: Getty ImagesXenos also pointed to the fact that the proposed $50 million from Forrest would have been spread across the country, not just in Western Australia.

That makes the decision a touch more perplexing but with all the talk of finance and grassroots funding, Xenos also pointed to the players and their families, who are still in a state of limbo as the appeal process plays out.

"This is a really tough time for that group of young men," Xenos said.

"Ultimately, that group is still anxious and we are doing everything they can to support their wellbeing.

"The fact that the justice heard the case today so quickly and that he is committed to giving a decision in the next fortnight, is a really good thing.Adam Coleman is one of the Force players awaiting the Supreme Court's call. Photo: Getty Images"The fact that this continues to drag on means we have issues around leases, childcare placements and much broader issues that most of us don't ever really think about.

"For their wellbeing, we hope this is wrapped up soon."

Should the appeal fail, though, Xenos committed the Players' Association to a position of support, should the Force look to play in a separate competition.

"The discussions that have emerged over the past 24 hours about a potential alternative for the Western Force to continue if it's not in Super Rugby, it's starting to give them a greater safety net," he said.

"(There is) greater optimism that rugby will continue in some way, shape or form in Western Australia, even if it's not Super Rugby.

"That's allowing them, I think, to keep their heads down and focus on NRC.

"Our number one focus is ensuring the Western Force retain their place in Super Rugby - that's the competition the Western Force deserve to play in.

"But if that's not an option that's available, for those players who would like to continue playing in Western Australia, then having another opportunity to play in another competition is of interest."