Western Force takes fight to stay in Super Rugby to court
Only days after the Wallabies were thrashed by the All Blacks on home soil, Australian rugby is bracing for another bruising when Western Force fights for its survival in court today.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced its decision to axe the Perth-based Force from Super Rugby earlier this month, but the state’s rugby governing body (RugbyWA) has lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
It may only be a brief stay of execution, with Justice David Hammerschlag to assess, firstly, whether there are grounds for appeal. But even if granted, a verdict could arrive quickly, with Hammerschlag expected to hear the appeal directly.
No matter the ruling, the embattled ARU stands to lose.
The governing body’s commitment to cut the Force, as part of Super Rugby’s contraction from 18 teams to 15 next season, has proved deeply unpopular, enraging players and pundits, and sparking the threat of a “civil war” with Western Australia (WA) state.
If the appeal fails, the ARU can expect costly legal challenges it can ill afford.
Billionaire mining tycoon Andrew Forrest has thrown his financial clout behind efforts to retain the Force and WA Premier Mark McGowan has threatened to sue over the state’s investment in the team and its home stadium. “Reinstate the Force or we will use every tool at our disposal to get our money back,” McGowan said. “And if that means the ARU goes bankrupt, so be it.”
If the appeal succeeds, the ARU will have failed to deliver on its commitment to Sanzaar to cut a team for the good of Super Rugby, opening the door for legal action from Australia’s joint venture partners in the competition. – Reuters