Australian Rugby Union rejects $54m offer to save Western Force
The Australian Rugby Union has rejected an offer of around $A50 million (NZ$54m) from billionaire mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest to save the code and look after the financial burden of the Western Force.
Forrest, who first pledged support for the Western Force after the club's last match against the NSW Waratahs in July, was flanked by former ARU director Geoff Stooke and West Australia's first homegrown Wallaby John Wellborn at the meeting.
The trio met with ARU chairman Cameron Clyne, deputy chairman Brett Robinson as well as director and former Wallabies captain John Eales.
During a three-hour meeting in Adelaide, Forrest told the ARU there would be no financial risk to the game's governing body if the Force were able to continue in Super Rugby. Forrest put an offer of around to A$50m on the table to the ARU to help them out of financial trouble.
When contacted, the ARU said it would not comment on any dollar figures put forward by Forrest.
The ARU, however, is in a difficult predicament given it has already told Sanzaar it will cut a team from Super Rugby next season.
With the Melbourne Rebels' license in the hands of the Victorian Rugby Union, meaning the ARU has no constitutional right to axe them, the Force were named earlier in the month as the team in the firing line.
The ARU rejected Forrest's offer at the meeting and made it clear they were committed to cutting the Force.
"We had a long discussion with Andrew today and have provided in detail the position of the ARU and the factors that have led to our decision to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence," said Clyne.
"We were genuinely appreciative of Andrew's generous offer to back the Western Force and Australian Rugby, however, given the position we are in we are unable to work towards retaining five teams in Super Rugby."
Nonetheless, it is an eye-watering sum of money for the ARU to be turning down, no matter how committed they are to following through with its proposal to axe the Force and fulfil a Sanzaar obligation to reduce a franchise for a 15-team competition next year.
Although Forrest was disappointed, he was pleased the ARU outlined its commitment to working with the Force to develop a new international competition based in Western Australia.
Meanwhile, RugbyWA will find out on Wednesday whether their appeal against the ARU's decision to axe the Force will be heard in the NSW Supreme Court.
If not – or if the appeal fails – the Force will be left with no other choice but to explore playing elsewhere.
Forrest has said he would consider launching a new rugby union competition in Asia if the Force were unable to win their way back into Super Rugby ranks.
During the Force's supporter rally last Sunday, Forrest threw up a curve ball by saying he would start his own international league if the Supreme Court appeal failed.
Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry said the idea had merit.
"This is a really exciting concept and picks up on some interesting rugby we're seeing in Asia," Sinderberry said.
"Certainly Twiggy's vision is one we'd be very excited to understand. It's an embryonic idea, but one worth exploring.
"There's a number of cities and countries in Asia that do play rugby at the moment and are looking at ways to develop their own programs. So we think it would be very well received."
- Sydney Morning Herald