ARU 'surprised' by Senate inquiry

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by AAP & Beth Newman

The ARU has taken a swipe at a looming senate inquiry over its processes in axing the Western Force, in a statement on Thursday morning.

Australia's senate approved a motion from WA senator Linda Reynolds to open an inquiry into the matter, just a day after RugbyWA lost its Supreme Court appeal against last month's arbitration decision.

The ARU statement said the governing body was 'surprised' by the looming senate inquiry, with ARU chairman Cameron Clyne defending the governing body against a lack of transparency through the Super Rugby process.

"We have acknowledged that we have been limited in the level of information we could provide publicly on the Super Rugby process while we were subject to court action commenced by RugbyWA, and to confidentiality obligations in the relevant agreements between the ARU and RugbyWA," the statement read.

“Following Tuesday’s result in the NSW Supreme Court, we were able to address this to a significant degree by providing a detailed record of the process via a statement and supporting documentation, which remains available for public consumption on the ARU website.

“I can also confirm that ARU has been in dialogue with the Federal Government, through the Minister for Sport, Greg Hunt MP, during this process and has discussed the reasons for moving from five Super Rugby teams to four."

"ARU has absolutely no concerns about the integrity of the process that has been run."

Clyne went on to describe the move as 'highly unusual', questioning whether the decision was a 'suitable use of public funds'.

“While it is a highly unusual step for Government to single out a national sporting organisation for this type of process, particularly when there is no policy or legislation under review in relation to Australian Rugby, we welcome the opportunity to address the committee.

“To-date the ARU has enjoyed a productive working relationship with the Federal Government. Throughout, the Government has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to interfere with the way in which sports operate and make decisions, but it appears this stance has now changed - this is a concern for the entire industry.

“Certainly there will be questions asked as to whether an inquiry like this is a suitable use of public funds.”

Senator Reynolds was critical of the decision-making process used by the Australia Rugby Union, and also the governing body's lack of transparency.

"Western Force is the nation's third-largest rugby playing community, and its removal from the national competition will leave Australian rugby all the poorer," Senator Reynolds said.

"The reasoning behind this decision must be explained and made public."

The Community Affairs References Committee will put rugby union under the microscope and report by November 13.

The inquiry will look at:

* ARU board deliberations leading to the decision to reduce Australian teams from five to four

* Whether there continues to be a truly national rugby footprint in Australia

* The role of national and state-based bodies in encouraging greater national participation in rugby

* The corporate governance arrangements and composition of national and state-based rugby bodies, including community representation on those bodies

* The impact of the decision to reduce the number of Australian teams on national participation in rugby.

The WA government has also threatened to sue the ARU for more than $100 million over the decision to remove the Force.

The state spent $95 million a few years ago, upgrading the Force's home venue nib Stadium, in addition to contributing millions of dollars towards building the headquarters of RugbyWA.

WA Premier Mark McGowan hopes a rebel competition, to be set up by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, will cause the ARU to suffer after its treatment of WA taxpayers.