Timing wrong for ARU-Forrest deal: Pulver

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU CEO Bill Pulver says timing was against the national body when WA billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest came calling with a multi-million dollar contribution to the sport. 

Forrest’s offer was made to board representatives in Adelaide last week, as the mining magnate continued his bid to try and overturn a decision to axe the Western Force.

Pulver confirmed Forrest had offered to contribute anywhere between $10 and $50 million to the Australian Rugby Foundation, an organisation that funds various Australian rugby programs at all levels, most recently raising money for the Wallaroos to travel to the World Cup.

Though he wasn’t one of the ARU representatives who met with Forrest in Adelaide, Pulver said timing meant it was an offer that had to be refused.

“It is sitting here about four months from kick-off in the Super Rugby competition, five months from kick-off and we are well down the track having made commitments to SANZAAR to go to four teams and having had an EGM where our members voted to go to four teams," he said, at Tuesday's NRC launch.

The Perth Spirit will remain in the NRC competition, regardless of the Force result. Photo: Getty Images“It was a little late in the process to be making those sort of change.

“If Mr Forrest is looking to invest in Australian rugby, that's a wonderful thing and there are plenty of opportunities.

“I wasn't in that particular meeting and I understand a range of 10-50 million dollars was tabled in relation to investment in the Australian Rugby Foundation.

“Right now, we need support for Super Rugby so that's our priority.”

RugbyWA’s appeal against an arbitration decision that allowed the ARU to announce their culling is still in the courts, with a decision likely to be handed down next week.

“Last Wednesday it was heard and I think sometime next week we'll hear an outcome and we'll respond to that when we get to it,” Pulver said.

Though Pulver said there was no immediate back-up strategy should the Force win the appeal, he committed to maintaining an NRC team in the state, regardless of the outcome.

“We really want to make sure there is the appropriate player development pathway in every corner of the country, including WA,” he said.

“My own personal view is that an NRC team is a very important part of that pathway.”

Pulver, who announced his resignation along with the decision to cut the Force a little more than a fortnight ago, said he expected the ARU to have a replacement by Christmas.

The ARU CEO will come face-to-face with WA fans in Perth when the Wallabies take on South Africa, and he expects a frosty reception.

"I'll be over there to watch our game in South Africa and I daresay, I suspect a couple of Western Force fans might sidle up beside me, so I can look forward to that," he said.