It’s a sad day for rugby union in Western Australia as the Force have been kicked out of Super Rugby, following months of speculation. Due to the tournament being reduced from 18 to 15 teams for 2018, the Australian Rugby Union will discontinue their Super Rugby licence.
South Africa teams the Cheetahs and the Kings have already been booted, and for months there was plenty of debate and heated discussion regarding which Australia team would get axed.
The Melbourne Rebels appear to have won that battle, following several weeks of ARU consultation with rugby bodies and stakeholders, including government and commercial partners.
The Force finished second on the Australian conference this year after 6 wins, while the Rebels finished last, with just the 1 win from fifteen games.
ARU Chairman, Cameron Clyne said: “This has been a complex process to reduce Australia’s Super Rugby representation to four teams as agreed by SANZAAR following its review of the competition.
“We are regretful that this issue has consumed so much of the public commentary on the game in 2017. It was clearly not our intention for this to play out over such a lengthy period however there have been factors outside the ARU’s control that have prevented us from completing the process.
“Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes.
“As we have reinforced throughout this process, there are commercial realities which are linked to declining on-field performance across our Super Rugby teams which has put Australian Rugby in a position where it can no longer sustain five teams.
“Furthermore, the significant unbudgeted support funding that has been provided to Super Rugby teams over the past five years has greatly affected our capacity to invest in community Rugby.
“This is a sad day for Rugby, especially for Western Force fans. We accept that there will be anger and resentment over this decision and we sympathise with those fans. We sincerely hope that they are not lost to the game forever.
“The decision to exit the Western Force from Super Rugby is not a decision to abandon the game in Western Australia. Western Australia will retain an important place in Australian Rugby and the ARU will continue to support youth development programs and the community game in the West.
“There will be a clear pathway for young Western Australian Rugby players to reach the highest level and represent the Wallabies.
“Our immediate concern is to support the individuals at the Western Force through these difficult circumstances and we will deploy various ARU management staff to Western Australia to provide assistance to all players and staff.”
Feeling for the @westernforce boys their families, and all that’s involved with the club. Best wishes to you all! ????
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) August 11, 2017
ARU CEO Bill Pulver has also announced that he will step down as soon as a replacement is found.
Rugby Western Australia meanwhile released a statement, indicating that they will keep fighting.
“RugbyWA remains committed to pursuing every possible means to ensure the Western Force remains a Super Rugby team in Perth,” the statement read.
“RugbyWA is considering all options including bringing urgent proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW, and legal action relating to the circumstances which led it to enter into the Alliance Agreement with the ARU.
“Whilst the board of RugbyWA is extremely disappointed with the ARU’s stated position, with the support of the Rugby community and numerous WA business identities including Mr Andrew Forrest AO we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia.”
Andrew Forest, an extremely wealthy West Australian businessman, has pledged to do everything in his power to fight for the Force’s survival.
Western Force CEO Mark Sinderberry responded to the ARU’s decision earlier today.