The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has decided to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence, cutting the competition to 15 teams.
ARU Chairman, Cameron Clyne said the decision was based “primarily by financial outcomes”.
“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,” he said.
“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.
Clyne said it was a sad day for rugby, especially Force fans, but the ARU was not giving up on rugby in WA.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Fortescue Metals chairman and Western Force backer Andrew Forrest yesterday accused the ARU of being “cowardly” in targeting the side and based on a number of criteria “the last team you would bump off the list is the Western Force”.
Forrest has become a vocal support of the side in recent weeks offering to finance legal action to keep it in the competition.
Speaking to 2GB, the billionaire miner said Clyne and the board were “eastern seaboard-centric” and chose the Force because “they’re out of sight”.
In April the ARU said it would close down either the Force or Melbourne Rebels, prompting legal action by Rugby WA, winning an injunction thanks to an alliance agreement with the ARU that the Force would stay in the competition until 2020.
The Perth-based side were the fourth Australian franchise in the competition, launching in 2006. They’re currently 2nd on the Australian ladder, matching the leaders, the ACT Brumbies, with six wins from 15 games.
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