Quit Targa West 2017: Day 4 Wrap
Regional Sports News
Momentum swings are powerful forces in rugby. And the ARU is stranded on the wrong side of another powerful momentum shift in the Super Rugby saga.
The backlash against the ARU since Friday’s move to axe the Force has been as swift and brutal as the decision itself.
The chorus of condemnation against the eight ARU directors is growing louder, with credible and passionate Australian rugby identities like Alan Jones, Brendan Cannon, Jeremy Paul, John Welborn and Nathan Sharpe joining mining magnate Andrew Forrest in publically venting their disbelief and anger.
Rugby writer Wayne Smith summed up the mood in his open letter to ARU chiefs Bill Pulver and Cameron Clyne published in The Australian newspaper today. Of course, The Australian is owned by another influential billionaire in Rupert Murdoch, who is not shy of sending the odd blunt message to Australian politicians or corporate leaders.
And your correspondent can reveal the ARU has also lost favour with another influential media baron in Seven Network boss Kerry Stokes.
“The ARU is just keeping faith with the GST distribution model and applying it to sport,” Mr Stokes told your correspondent. “The (ARU) chairman is a Victorian banker – says it all really.”
Footnote: Like Twiggy, Kerry Stokes is a former rugby player, having shown reasonable pace on the wing for Neddies back in the day.
All of which begs the question: Where are all the passionate Australian rugby identities, media barons, billionaires and talkback radio hosts standing behind the ARU’s decision to axe the Force?
And if the ARU expected Friday’s bombshell would fracture the Force players, they were wrong on that front. The players, including Wallabies Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty, have pledged solidarity until the final siren is sounded.
Spare a thought too for poor old Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who is trying to prepare his players for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match against a backdrop of open bloodletting in the Australian rugby community. By the time the Wallabies get to Perth on September 9 to play the Springboks, the ARU backlash will be on display to the rugby world as the Wallaby jumpers in the nib Stadium grandstands are replaced in defiance by the blue of the Western Force.
So what does that all mean?
While RugbyWA’s appeal in the NSW Supreme Court could be heard as early as next week, there are, in the words of The Australian’s Wayne Smith, “things that may be possible now that weren’t possible before.”
And that is for the ARU to revisit its decision to cut an Australian Super Rugby team. That is the only course of action to save the Force because your columnist understands the arbitration hearing confirmed what many had suspected all the way along – that the ARU had no legal avenue available to axe the Rebels. So all the consultation and spread sheets etc comparing the Force and the Rebels were a sham.
The ARU has made the wrong decision. But there is still time to acknowledge that and heal the wounds. Sure, the move to reduce Australia’s Super Rugby representation from five teams to four was endorsed by the various State unions at the ARU extraordinary general meeting held in June. But having now witnessed the fallout from the move to axe the Force, would those State unions vote the same way? What’s more, they all voted back in June without the knowledge that one of Australia’s richest men was about to appear on the scene to throw his financial support behind Super Rugby.
If the eight directors of the ARU are looking for a precedent to make such a bold retreat, they need look no further than across the Tasman, where the game seems to be in reasonable shape these days.
A few years back, the NZ Rugby Union voted to axe the Tasman Makos on the basis that the merged team from the Nelson-Marlborough region simply wasn’t sustainable. To their eternal credit, the NZRU changed their minds. And since then, the Makos have flourished, going on to play in two ITM Cup grand finals and developing more NZ Super Rugby players than just about any other province over in Barnaby Joyce’s homeland.\
Right now, like any good forward pack, Australian rugby needs the courage of eight. The eight directors of the ARU that is. It’s time for everyone to get back on the same team.
The post Exclusive: Seven Network Boss Kerry Stokes Weighs Into the Super Rugby Saga appeared first on Nedlands Rugby Union Football Club.
Well readers, tomorrow looms as another big day in the Super Rugby saga when the Force fightback begins in the Supreme Court.
But before heading back to the heartland of community rugby this afternoon for day two of the club semi-finals, your columnist thought it was worth trying to clarify a couple of issues which the crowd at The Foreshore yesterday couldn’t make any sense of.
So here’s a couple of questions for the eight members of the ARU Board (pictured below) who on Friday decided to axe the Force from Super Rugby. Of course, there were nine members on the ARU Board before Geoff Stooke, who was sidelined by his fellow Board members, quit in disgust and claimed his former board colleagues had presided over a “totally corrupt process.”
Billionaire Andrew Forrest has revealed he rang ARU chairman Cameron Clyne personally last week to confirm he would stand behind the Force financially, thus ensuring the Force would be sustainable as a Super Rugby team without the need for any further financial assistance from the ARU. Given that revelation, how could it be possible for the ARU to base its case for axing the Force on financial reasons?
With reference to Question 1 above, on what possible basis or criteria did the ARU deem that the Rebels stacked up financially ahead of the Force? As it stands, the Rebels are incurring significant operating losses, they have no sponsors and they are now owned by an organisation (the Victorian Rugby Union1) which has no financial capacity to run a Super Rugby team. Where is the financial plan from the Rebels upon which the ARU deemed them to be financially superior to a team backed by one of Australia’s richest men?
Given that the ARU based its decision to axe the Force on financial grounds, can the ARU confirm no further financial funding will be provided to the Rebels throughout the Super Rugby competition?
The ARU claimed last week it was kept completely in the dark when the Rebels private owner Andrew Cox transferred ownership of the team to the VRU for $1. However, Wayne Smith reported in The Weekend Australian that “it was now becoming clear that the ARU actively worked to bring it about.” If that is true, then the ARU stands accused of actively working to ensure the Rebels were safe from the ARU axe, at the expense of the Force, while publically denying any knowledge. So did the ARU or its lawyers Clayton Utz have any role in the Cox-VRU deal or not
Did any member of the ARU Board or executive management team have any knowledge that SANZAAR planned to cut an Australian Super Rugby team when the alliance agreement was signed with the Force?
Andrew Forrest has called for the entire Board of the ARU to resign, a call echoed by many others including former Wallabies Jeremy Paul and Nathan Sharpe. In light of that, do the members of the ARU Board believe they have the confidence and support of the Australian rugby community?
Stay tuned for the responses….
Footnote1: For those of you wondering about the reference to the Dunsborough Dung Beetles in the headline, check out Dave Pusey’s column in The Sunday Times today.
Shortly before 2pm today, your correspondent broke the sad news to the rugby world that RugbyWA had lost the arbitration case with the ARU. Within minutes of that story being posted, the ARU had moved to axe the Force from the Super Rugby competition.
But as your columnist suggested at the time, the game is not over. As the Force’s billionaire backer Andrew Forrest surmised: “This could be a try against us, but it’s not the end of the game.”
As flagged earlier today, expect a Supreme Court appeal and injunction to be lodged later tonight, or soon thereafter (weather permitting). And just as your columnist predicted, the WA Government has also confirmed it is examining the undertakings provided by the ARU in relation to the funding commitments made to upgrade nib Stadium.
Don’t be surprised if a very pre-eminent QC by the name of Allan Myers pops up in the Force’s corner.
When there is a seismic upheaval of the magnitude which has occurred today in Australian rugby, someone must die. (Figuratively speaking of course). And when the dust finally settles on this saga, your columnist believes that someone will be the institution formerly known as the ARU.
The writing is already on the wall. Since the decision to attempt to axe the Force was made, the ARU has degenerated into what former Prime Minister Paul Keating might refer to as “unrepresentative swill.” The condemnation of the ARU’s decision is universal. And the list of casualties is mounting. ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has tendered his resignation, becoming the third ARU executive with fingerprints all over this sordid affair to flee the ARU. How’s that for accountability.
Long-serving ARU director Geoff Stooke, who has been sidelined by the rest of the ARU Board throughout this affair, has resigned in disgust. Here’s a couple of interesting lines from Stookey’s resignation letter:
“I never wanted to throw any team under the bus, but to create a situation that considers retaining a team that has lost almost $30million (including nearly $17.5million additional cost to the ARU) since 2011 at the expense of a team that has incurred additional cost to the ARU of only $5.5million since 2005 is outrageous! We should be rewarding success not failure. To introduce financial criteria that have nothing to do with the financial viability of each term is less than appropriate.”
“An appropriate consultation process was never in place & in my view the Western Force was always being targeted for removal. This was simply because they were seen to be the easiest to remove contractually but they were not the team that deserved to be removed. The process lacked due diligence & contained significant levels of bias.”
“I was opposed to the inclusion of an Argentinian team & a Japanese team in Super Rugby. Without doubt, the failure of such an unwieldy, unattractive & more expensive competition has contributed to the demise of an Australian Super Rugby team & the future demise of rugby in Western Australia. They did not deserve this!”
Those comments cut straight to the heart of the issue – which is that the decision to axe the Force does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny whatsoever, financial or otherwise.
Put simply, today’s decision by the ARU does not go even close to passing the pub test. In fact, it wouldn’t even make it through the front door of most public bars. And that is why, in your columnist’s view, the Force will survive. And the ARU won’t. As former Wallaby Brendan Cannon stated tonight: “Everyone must follow Bill Pulver out the door.”
Well readers, unfortunately the bounce of the ball didn’t go RugbyWA’s way in the arbitration hearing with the ARU.
But that’s not the end of the road for the Force, not by any measure. Rather, it’s the trigger for Plan B.
Apart from an immediate Supreme Court appeal and/or injunction, your correspondent understands that RugbyWA will pursue two other legal avenues against the ARU to ensure the Force remains in Super Rugby.
The first is the smoking gun your columnist first revealed back on August 4. And that boils down to one very critical issue: Was anyone at the ARU aware of SANZAAR’s plans to axe an Australian Super Rugby team when the alliance agreement was signed with the Force in 2016? If so, surely the ARU couldn’t have signed that alliance agreement in good faith?
The other legal avenue being considered is even more explosive. Your correspondent understands that Andrew Forrest is in discussions with the WA Government to consider a circa $120 million claim against the ARU for the cost of refurbishing nib Stadium.
Things are hotting up. And you know what they say about people being in the kitchen when that happens.
As always, stay tuned…..