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Rugby Australia made decision to axe Western Force months before finances examined
A Senate inquiry has found that Rugby Australia had already decided to cut the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition in April, well before it looked into the finances of the Force and Melbourne Rebels franchises.
The Community Affairs References Committee into the future of rugby union in Australia found that the decision to cut the Force was effectively made on 9th April, a day before Rugby Australia, then known as the Australian Rugby Union, met with RugbyWA.
The committee also found Rugby Australia was resistant to changing their decision to axe the Force, despite the efforts of mining magnate Andrew Forrest and the Western Australian Government.
In its report, the inquiry made several recommendations, including that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission review financial transactions involving the Melbourne Rebels, as well as investigating Rugby Australia’s annual reports.
The inquiry was established by West Australian Federal Senator Linda Reynolds to investigate the future of the code in Australia, following the ARU's announcement of its decision to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition in August.
Senator Reynolds told the ABC “(Rugby Australia) cut Western Force from the Super Rugby competition without appropriate explanation or justification in August this year.
"Even before the inquiry had commenced hearing evidence, it was clear ARU representatives were resentful and contemptuous, even dismissive of this Senate inquiry.
"I believe there were also inappropriate and misdirected attempts by ARU officials to stop this inquiry."
The inquiry heard evidence from a wide range of people involved in the process, including former ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver, Chairman Cameron Clyne and Western Force Chief Executive Mark Sinderbury.
Much of the questioning revolved around the contract to sell the Melbourne Rebels to New Zealand businessman Andrew Cox for $1 - which included a $13 million write-off, $1.8 million cleared with creditors, $6 million in incremental payments between 2016-2020 and $750,000 in working capital grants.
It also heard West Australian businessman Andrew Forrest agreed to guarantee the future of the Western Force at a personal cost of $50 million, but when he met with Clyne to finalise the deal, it was knocked back.
The deal included underwriting the Force for eight years, providing $6 million for grassroots rugby union over the next eight years and compensating the Super Rugby competition by $20 million to cover costs of keeping the franchise.
The report recommends the Western Australian Government seek legal advice to review its negotiations with the ARU, which resulted in extensive investment from the Government, as well as proposing Rugby Australia transfer Western Force's intellectual property to RugbyWA.
Image: Western Force take the field in Perth.
28th October 2017 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY UNION REBRANDS AS RUGBY AUSTRALIA
5th September 2017 - WESTERN FORCE FAILS IN COURT APPEAL OVER SUPER RUGBY AXING
20th June 2017 - BILL PULVER TO REMAIN AT ARU AS SUPER RUGBY TEAM STILL FACES AXE
28th March 2017 - ARU REJECTS ROY MORGAN FINDINGS ON RUGBY PARTICIPATION
27th March 2017 - WESTERN FORCE REJECTS CLAIMS OF AXING FROM SUPER RUGBY
13th March 2017 - WORLD RUGBY LAUNCHES EIGHT-YEAR STRATEGY TO GROW WOMEN’S GAME
8th November 2016 - ARU TO REVIEW STRATEGIC PLAN AFTER MEETING WITH RUGBY STAKEHOLDERS
31st October 2016 - WESTERN FORCE PLANS RADICAL NEW PUBLIC OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE
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