Western Australian billionaire miner Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest will announce plans for a breakaway rugby league within days after the Western Force lost its appeal against being axed from the Super Rugby competition.
Today the NSW Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by RugbyWA against the ARU’s decision to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence, cutting the competition to 15 teams from next season.
“Out of great disappointment comes equal or greater opportunity,” Forrest said.
“It’s not a great day for the ARU, this is a great day for Australian rugby.”
The mining magnate plans to set up a rival seven-team Indo-Pacific competition that includes the Western Force in a move reminiscent of fellow billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer decades earlier.
Packer launched World Series Cricket in the 1970s and changed the game forever, while Murdoch took on rugby league to create Super League in 1997.
Speaking after today’s court decision, Forrest said he’d briefed prominent Melbourne silk Allan Myers QC with a view to seeking leave to appeal to the High Court.
If that path fails, the mining billionaire already has plans under way for his own competition.
“We will include strong and deeply powerful players, broadcasters and fans of rugby all across the Indo-Pacific region,” Forrest said, adding that he will start with the Western Force versus “a team that will surprise us all”.
“This is the beginning of the new Force,” he said.
“I do intend to extend to this game to seven sides to encourage women and girls in rugby. It will be a very fast-moving game built for the players and spectators.”
Forrest said discussion had already begun internationally, and at the state and national levels.
“I am delighted to be an instigator of it,” he said.
The Fortescue Metals chairman took several digs at ARU chairman, Cameron Clyne, for turning down Forrest’s offer of $50 million, saying he “should have stayed running a bank” and should resign from the ARU over “a very poor financial decision”.
Clyne has said previously that the decision to cut the Force was based “primarily by financial outcomes”.
“Andrew’s offer, which was incredibly generous, was not made until after the Board’s decision had been made,” Clyne said.
The ARU chairman is due to hold a media conference in response to today’s decision at 3pm.
After today’s announcement by Forrest, WA premier Mark McGowan said: “I hope the ARU suffers as a consequence.”
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