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Western Force plans radical new public ownership structure
Facing ongoing financial problems, Super Rugby’s Western Force is to give fans the option to own a part of the club.
Following a strategy used by NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, and international football giant FC Barcelona, the Force’s ‘Save the Force’ initiative is offering 5,000 fans one-off $1000 ownership certificates, a move that could raise $5 million for the franchise.
With the West Australian team having been touted as a potential casualty of any change in the structure of Australian Super Rugby, the move will give fans the opportunity to financially commit to their passion.
With lack of local support for the team a key argument in speculation around the Force’s prospects of being cut from the Australian Super Rugby conference after next season, the move would give fan stakeholder voting rights and power of approval over the reappointment of crucial positions within the franchise as well as a say in match day activities.
Rugby WA President Hans Sauder said they wanted to engage the grassroots in order to keep the franchise alive, stating “the introduction of the Western Force into the Super Rugby competition took the profile and interest in the code in Western Australia to a whole other level.
“We hope that Western Australians will join us once again as we fight to save the Western Force.”
New Force Coach David Wessels said any potential exclusion from Super Rugby would be a ‘disservice’ to the state.
Wessels advised “we hope our fans get behind this initiative because Western Australia losing the opportunity to participate in the toughest and highest profile international provincial sporting competition in the world is a disservice to anyone who loves sport in Western Australia, not just rugby.”
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) Chief Executive Bill Pulver is backing the plan stating “if there is strong financial support for any franchise that gave it a clearly sustainable financial future ... I'm all ears."
The West Australian quoted Pulver as saying “the dialogue that's going on out west is incredibly relevant.
“If there is some new news that goes to the heart of our financial sustainability I want to hear about it.”
Asked about different financial models for the ownership of Super Rugby teams, Pulver told The Australian that fan ownership is “one structural option that we would always be prepared to look at.
"If there is a third party interested in looking at any franchise that would result in greater sustainability, we'd be prepared to look at it.
“(Fan ownership) is certainly novel. I don't know that I've heard of that approach in any other rugby franchise, but if there was a proposal somebody wanted to bring forward, we would certainly have a look at it."
The development comes five months after the ARU and Rugby WA finalised an alliance agreement that would see the Force continue as a West Australian team.
Under the new agreement, the professional rugby program of the Western Force was integrated into the High Performance Unit of the ARU and all Western Force players and professional rugby staff became employees of the national body. The agreement comes after weeks of planning from both the ARU and Rugby WA as they addressed financial concerns resulting from the challenge of basing a rugby side away from Australian rugby's traditional heartland on the east coast and the changing economic climate in Western Australia, which has affected the club's bottom line.
SANZAAR executives are set for a meeting in mid-November about the future of Super Rugby and possible conference changes in the longer term.
For more information on the Force’s fan ownership plan go to www.owntheforce.com.au
Lower image: Western Force at nib Stadium.
8th August 2016 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY SEEKS NEW SUPER RUGBY SPONSOR
8th June 2016 - ARU GIVES WESTERN FORCE A FINANCIAL LIFELINE
23rd May 2016 - SUPER RUGBY SET FOR 2018 COMPETITION OVERHAUL
14th February 2014 - AUSTRALIAN SUPER RUGBY TEAMS CONSIDER MERGER PLAN
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