Friday - August 18th, 2017

Western Force to be cut from Super Rugby next season


RugbyWA says it will consider taking the Australian Rugby Union to the Supreme Court of NSW after the game's governing body announced it would cut the Western Force from Super Rugby next year. 

After months of ongoing speculation, the ARU has won its arbitration case against Rugby WA and said it would "discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence". 

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said: "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.

"We are regretful that this issue has consumed so much of the public commentary on the game in 2017. It was clearly not our intention for this to play out over such a lengthy period however there have been factors outside the ARU's control that have prevented us from completing the process.

"Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes.

"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." 

The Force still have the option of appealing the decision in the Supreme Court but their chances of existing next season remain slim. 

​"RugbyWA remains committed to pursuing every possible means to ensure the Western Force remains a Super Rugby team in Perth," a statement read. 

"RugbyWA is considering all options including bringing urgent proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW and legal action relating to the circumstances which led it to enter into the Alliance Agreement with the ARU.

"Whilst the board of RugbyWA is extremely disappointed with the ARU's stated position, with the support of the Rugby community and numerous WA business identities including Mr Andrew Forrest AO, we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia." 

Clyne said the decision to cut the Force would not spell an end to rugby in Western Australia. 

"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," Clyne said. "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."

Clyne and ARU chief executive Bill Pulver will hold a press conference at 5pm. 

A number of Force players are in Wallabies camp in Cessnock at the moment and will no doubt want to seek clarity as soon as possible over their future. 

The announcement marks 123 days since Clyne said a decision on whether to cut the Force or the Melbourne Rebels would be made within "48 to 72 hours".

HISTORY OF THE WESTERN FORCE

* 2006 - 14th (1 win, 2 draws, 10 losses) * 2007 - 7th (6-1-6) * 2008 - 8th (7-0-6) * 2009 - 8th (6-1-6) * 2010 - 13th (4-0-9) * 2011 - 12th (5-2-9) * 2012 - 14th (3-0-13) * 2013 - 13th (4-1-11) * 2014 - 8th (9-0-7) * 2015 - 15th (3-0-13) * 2016 - 16th (2-0-13) * 2017 - 12th (6-0-9)

COACHES * John Mitchell (2006-10) * Richard Graham (2011-12) * Phil Blake (interim 2012) * Michael Foley (2012-16) * David Wessels (2016)

KEY POINTS IN FORCE TIMELINE * Dec, 2004 - RugbyWA beats Rugby Union Victoria for the right to host a fourth Australian franchise * Feb, 2006 - Led by Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe, the Force make their debut in a 25-10 home loss to the Brumbies at a soldout Subiaco Oval * Apr, 2006 - Sign Matt Giteau from Brumbies in three-year deal worth a reported $5.4 million, making him the highest-paid player in any code * Feb, 2008 - The Force field a star-studded line-up for the opening round of their third season, including Nathan Sharpe, Giteau, Cameron Shepherd, Ryan Cross, Drew Mitchell, David Pocock, Scott Fava, Nick Cummins, Richard Brown and Tai McIsaac. The Force lost 17-10 to the Sharks in Durban * Dec, 2008 - Force set up an independent inquiry into complaints from players and staff about head coach John Mitchell * Feb, 2009 - Giteau announces he has signed a two-year deal with the Brumbies starting in 2010. Giteau in 2008 was left more than a million dollars out of pocket after the demise of his third-party sponsor Firepower * Mar, 2010 - Coach Mitchell announces he will stand down at the end of the season * Jul, 2014 - The Force miss out on a maiden finals berth after losing their last-round clash 47-25 against the Brumbies in Canberra * Jun, 2016 - ARU takes over ownership of the Force after the franchise hit deep financial difficulties * Jun 11, 2016 - Dane Haylett-Petty makes his Wallabies debut, becoming the first 'home grown' player to go through the Force junior system to play for Australia * Apr 9, 2017 - SANZAAR announces a restructure of Super Rugby, with three teams to be axed. The Australian Rugby Union later confirms the Force will be the Australian team to be cut from the competition * Jul 15 - Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest vows to do everything within his powers to save the Force. He makes an emotional speech to the players after their season-ending win over the NSW Waratahs. The win meant the Force finished second in the Australian conference * Jul 19 - Nine Force players named in extended Wallabies squad

* Jul 31 - The ARU and RugbyWA enter arbitration. The hearing lasts two days. RugbyWA argues the Force cannot be axed because its future was guaranteed until 2020 under the 'alignment' deal it signed last year with the ARU

Aug 11 - The ARU wins the arbitration, and immediately states it will axe the Force

with AAP

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