ARU hits back at government interference

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 09:58

REACTION: The embattled Australian Rugby Union hit back at the suggestion that they will be subject to a "highly unusual" parliamentary inquiry.

This follows the protracted Western Force culling saga.

Western Australia senator Linda Reynolds tabled a motion in the national Senate on Wednesday, which was carried, to look into the ARU decision-making process and transparency surrounding it.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said he was surprised over the government interference, given legal issues had prevented what information could be made public.

"Following Tuesday's result in the NSW Supreme Court, we were able to address this to a significant degree by providing a detailed record of the process via a statement and supporting documentation," he said.

"ARU has absolutely no concerns about the integrity of the process that has been run."

The Perth-based Force were informed they were being culled from Super Rugby last month and on Tuesday the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney dismissed their appeal.

SANZAAR, the governing body of Super Rugby, decided to reduce the competition from an unwieldy 18-team model to 15, with two teams from South Africa also cut.

The move to axe the Force sparked anger among supporters and the club's parent body RugbyWA, particularly billionaire backer Andrew Forrest who has questioned the rationale and demanded Clyne resign.

Clyne said the ARU had been in talks with the government through Sports Minister Greg Hunt during the process, discussing the reasons for moving from five Australian Super Rugby teams to four.

He said it was "a highly unusual step for government to single out a national sporting organisation for this type of process".

"Throughout, the government has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to interfere with the way in which sports operate and make decisions," he said.

"But it appears this stance has now changed - this is a concern for the entire industry.

"Certainly there will be questions asked as to whether an inquiry like this is a suitable use of public funds."

The inquiry, which is due to report on November 13, will examine the ARU board's deliberations in leading to its decision and whether there continues to be a national rugby footprint with no Super team in Perth.

It will also look at the impact of the decision on national participation in rugby.

RugbyWA is evaluating its legal options and whether to take the matter to a higher court.

In the meantime, Forrest has announced plans for a rival Indo-Pacific league with six teams initially involved, including the Force, but he is yet to table fuller details.

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ARU STATEMENT REGARDING SENATE INQUIRY

Whilst it understands Western Australia's disappointment following the outcome of Tuesday's court decision, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is surprised to learn that it will be subject to a senate inquiry in relation to the future of Australian Rugby.

ARU Chairman, Cameron Clyne said: "We have acknowledged that we have been limited in the level of information we could provide publicly on the Super Rugby process while we were subject to court action commenced by RugbyWA, and to confidentiality obligations in the relevant agreements between the ARU and RugbyWA.

"Following Tuesday's result in the NSW Supreme Court, we were able to address this to a significant degree by providing a detailed record of the process via a statement and supporting documentation, which remains available for public consumption on the ARU website.

"I can also confirm that ARU has been in dialogue with the Federal Government, through the Minister for Sport, Greg Hunt MP, during this process and has discussed the reasons for moving from five Super Rugby teams to four.

"ARU has absolutely no concerns about the integrity of the process that has been run.

"While it is a highly unusual step for Government to single out a national sporting organisation for this type of process, particularly when there is no policy or legislation under review in relation to Australian Rugby, we welcome the opportunity to address the committee.

"To-date the ARU has enjoyed a productive working relationship with the Federal Government. Throughout, the Government has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to interfere with the way in which sports operate and make decisions, but it appears this stance has now changed - this is a concern for the entire industry.

"Certainly there will be questions asked as to whether an inquiry like this is a suitable use of public funds."

ARU will make no further comment on the matter at this time.

The ARU statement and supporting documentation relating to the future of Super Rugby in Australia (including a chronology of events) can be viewed here.

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ARU STATEMENT ON THE FUTURE OF SUPER RUGBY
        
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) welcomes today's decision in the NSW Supreme Court, which provides legal certainty to all stakeholders.

ARU will contact the individuals affected by this decision to continue to offer support, including players and staff of the Western Force.

Throughout its process to reduce one Super Rugby team ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season, ARU has been restricted from providing certain information while it has been subject to court action.

Some of this information related to the basis on which the decision was made to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence.

During the process RugbyWA was provided several opportunities to provide its business case, right up until ARU's call for this information on August 2, but had failed to provide any evidence-based representations upon which the Board could rely in reaching a final view on the future viability of the Western Force.

The Board's decision was heavily deliberated. At its core was the need to recalibrate the ARU's investment in the game to meet the needs of a shifting sports landscape and to support its strategy to "make Rugby a game for all".

Rugby is being challenged, as are all sports in Australia, by increased competition for spectators, viewers and participants, especially amongst young Australians.

The future health of Rugby will be dependent upon the game's ability to attract more young boys and girls into the sport as players, spectators and fans.

To meet this challenge, tough decisions have had to be made to ensure that community and development programs are adequately funded to support the growth of the game including schoolboys, junior and women's Rugby.

As communicated at the beginning of this process, ARU has invested almost $28 million of unbudgeted, additional "support funding" to Super Rugby teams over the past five years, which has severely limited its capacity to fund these important areas of the game.

Australian Rugby had pushed hard to retain five teams for several years, but it had simply become too great of a burden on its resources.

The reduction of one team from Super Rugby will also address an alarming decline in Super Rugby team performance since 2006, which has directly impacted the bottom line of the National and State Unions.

Reducing one team will provide a greater choice of talent for Super Rugby teams, create more competition for positions within each team, improve roster depth at each team, and will positively impact the player market with greater competition for contracted positions.

The following supporting documentation sets out to provide a more detailed view of the considerations that informed the final decision of the ARU Board.

Notwithstanding today's court decision, ARU is committed to keeping Rugby strong in the West and to provide a clear pathway to the elite level of the game in men's and women's Rugby for junior players in Western Australia.

ARU is also in active discussions with its State and Territory Member Unions about opportunities to provide Rugby content in Western Australia from the 2018 season.

Click here to view the supporting document to this statement

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