New twist in Force v ARU stand-off
NEWS: The ongoing stand-off between the Australian Rugby Union and the two franchises earmarked to be axed from Super Rugby took a new twist.
The Western Force agreed to "arbitration" in their legal battle with the ARU.
The Force said they are "not backing down" from their fight against the ARU - that is trying to cut a side from the competition.
However, the Force are eager to bring a speedy end to the protracted legal battle.
The arbitration hearing, which has been wrapped in a cloak of confidentiality, will be held in Sydney.
"RugbyWA and the ARU have agreed today [Wednesday] to fast track the resolution of the dispute currently before supreme court of Western Australia through arbitration," the Force said in a statement.
"The RugbyWA Board believes that to proceed to arbitration is the best way forward for not only the Western Force, but for the betterment of the Super Rugby competition, and to expedite this process will only benefit the parties involved.
"The Board is particularly concerned with the lack of clear direction for players, staff and supporters and the expedited opportunity provided by a firm arbitration date will be in everyone's interest.
"The arbitration has been timetabled to take place in the week commencing 31 July."
The appointment of the arbitrator has to be agreed by both sides and there is an avenue for appeal after a decision has been handed down.
The ARU is looking to axe either the Rebels or the Force with SANZAAR trying to reduce the competition from 18 teams to 15 next season.
The Force made it quite clear they would not go down without a fight when they served a writ on the ARU notifying it of their intention to apply for an injunction against the plan to revoke their licence.
The Force have a clause in their alliance agreement with the ARU, drawn up by Force lawyers and signed by both parties, that commits the governing body to a club in Perth until the current broadcast deal ends in 2020.
Rebels owner Andrew Cox claims the ARU has no right to cut his franchise and has threatened legal action of his own.
The Force also say they have uncovered major flaws in the ARU's evaluation process to cut a side.
They include a claim that the Victorian government would pull funding for the 2020 Bledisloe Cup and a British Lions Test in 2025, games that are not guaranteed for Melbourne, if the Rebels were cut.
The ARU even produced a model where the Rebels would only be in the competition for two more years before closing down with the ARU taking control.
The long running axing saga will be discussed behind closed doors at an extraordinary general meeting of the ARU in Sydney on June 20.
The meeting was called by the Victorian Rugby Union and the Rugby Union Players' Association and could lead to a vote of no confidence in the ARU board.
Additional reporting by thewest.com.au