Saturday night’s drubbing of the Wallabies by the All Blacks in front of the poorest crowd ever for a Bledisloe test at Sydney’s Olympic stadium isn’t the only problem the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) faces right now.
The premier of Western Australia is threatening to effectively bankrupt the organisation, while one of Australia’s richest men, billionaire Andrew Forrest is threatening to “do a Murdoch” and establish his own breakaway competition after the ARU announced it was axing the Western Force from Super Rugby.
The Western Force has launched legal action appealing the ARU’s decision, which goes before the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday.
WA premier Mark McGowan told ABC Perth said the government was exploring its legal options for up to $100 million compensation after tipping more than $115 million into supporting the game in the state, including a Road Safety Commission’s $1.5 million sponsorship of the Western Force.
“I think the ARU is completely ignoring everything that has been done for rugby in this state, so we’re going to look at what options we have to take them to court,” he told the ABC.
— TimGossage ? (@TimGossage) August 20, 2017
Meanwhile, Fortescue chairman Andrew Forrest, who’d thrown his support behind the Western Force in recent months, told team supporters who rallied in Perth on Sunday that he’s start a breakaway “international league” if the side is not reinstated to the competition.
“[If] they want to run a process that is based on the lucky drawcard of where you happen to live, or where you happen to support your sport, then we will start our own international league from here,” he said.
Forrest said “we’re coming” for SANZAR and the ARU for taking out the competition’s fastest improving team “because they over the horizon or some pathetic financial reason”.
He didn’t initially become involved because “I felt there was no need for me. The answer was obvious,” he told the crowd.
“And only when I realised that this whole charade had been pre-cooked. Only when I realised that a savage injustice was going to be done for every sporting lover in our great state and across out great country did I then get involved,” he said.
“I stay here with you determined to never ever give up.”
— Linda Reynolds (@lindareynoldswa) August 20, 2017
Forrest’s threat has shades of the bitter 1990s fight between billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer over rugby league. Murdoch and his News Corp newspapers created Super League, which ran for a season in 1997 before a peace deal was brokered and the rebel sides returned to the fold and the competition became the NRL.
That dispute then saw the NRL then cut the South Sydney team, which lead to a successful two-year community and legal campaign to reinstate the team.
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