Melbourne Rebels owners won't sell, demand ARU declare their future secure
Melbourne Rebels owners won't be selling the franchise back to the Australian Rugby Union.
The Super Rugby rumour mill has been in full swing over the past week as reports swirled that Rebels owner Andrew Cox was in talks with the ARU to sell back the licence for a multi-million sum.
The ARU would then shut down the club.
Cox initially wouldn't comment on the stories, which led to more uncertainty for players and staff at the club who have spent the whole Super Rugby season under the axe, just as their colleagues Western Force have.
The Rebels board and management issued a statement on Friday night to say the ARU must end speculation over the club's future.
"The Melbourne Rebels wish to reiterate its clear legal position that the ARU has no legal right to "cut" them as a team in the Super Rugby competition," the statement read.
"The ARU must come out and publicly put an end to the speculation. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, neither the Melbourne Rebels nor its owners will engage with the ARU in relation to the sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence."
Both the Rebels and Force are reportedly taking legal action against the ARU and both state governments have lobbied for their respective teams.
"The Melbourne Rebels made a statement on Good Friday of its position and requested that the ARU come out and immediately state that it could not 'cut' the Rebels," the Rebels statement read.
"We are now five weeks further into the 2017 season with no statement from the ARU. The ongoing speculation concerning our future has tested the resolve of the club, our sponsors, our members and our fans.
"The ARU actions are not only impacting our 2017 season, they are now impacting our 2018 season."
The Rebels also thanked their supporters and the state government and said they intended to be around for a "long time to come".
This week Rebels' assistant coach Morgan Turinui spoke passionately about the anguish the ongoing saga was causing players and staff at the Rebels and he also called on Cox to make his plans clear.
The Rebels play the New South Wales Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday and have again been hit hard by injuries with Sefa Naivalu, Tom English, and Dominic Day all ruled out.
Sean McMahon and Lopeti Timani come back into the starting 15 after injury and suspension has restricted their appearances. McMahon returned via the bench last game while Timani was suspended for four games.
Rebels veteran Mitch Inman joined calls for the ARU to end the doubt over the future of the Rebels and Force during a press conference on Friday.
Inman is out of contract at the end of the season and like all other "non-Wallabies players" can't re-sign or formally sign with another Australian club until the decision is made.
"It's stressful enough as it is to be a rugby player in a Super Rugby season," Inman said.
"Having a decision with this significance over a lot of our players heads, a lot of our players don't know what they are doing post-July, you can see it's effecting all the players and all the people who work in the organisation."
- The Age