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SBD Global/August 24, 2017/Franchises

NSW Supreme Court To Hear Western Force's Appeal Over Super Rugby Axing

An NSW Supreme Court judge granted the Western Force "the right to appeal the Australian Rugby Union's decision to axe the team" from Super Rugby, according to the AAP. Justice David Hammerschlag said on Wednesday that he had read written submissions from the Force and the ARU and "believed an appeal should be heard." The judge said that he would "go straight into hearing the appeal on Wednesday." The news comes as a "big boost for the Force," whose survival hopes were "dealt a blow on Tuesday" when the ARU rejected a multi-million dollar offer from billionaire Andrew Forrest to save the franchise. RugbyWA is arguing the ARU "had no right to axe the Force under the terms of the alignment deal that was struck last year." The size of Forrest's offer to the ARU "stunned the rugby public." But the ARU said that it could not reinstate the Force because SANZAAR "had already eliminated a 16-team Super competition for a number of reasons" (AAP, 8/22). In Sydney, Phil Lutton reported Rugby Union Players' Association CEO Ross Xenos "has been left bewildered" by the ARU's rejection of Forrest's A$50M ($39.5M) bid to save the Western Force, "but welcomed the chance to appeal the team's axing." Xenos said that the RUPA did not believe the ARU "had taken enough time to digest the offer from Forrest when it met on Tuesday." He said, "We're deeply disappointed, surprised and bewildered at the fact that a very generous offer to secure the long-term future of the grassroots game was not, as far as we're aware, engaged with by the ARU." The "entire competition is now at the mercy of the court decision," with SANZAAR "unable to so much as issue a draw until the matter has been resolved" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/23).

NOT ON THE SAME PAGE: In Sydney, Wayne Smith reported prior to Forrest meeting with ARU Chair Cameron Clyne in Adelaide on Tuesday, the ARU reportedly "proposed a solution that if Forrest provided financial backing for the Force and also made a ­substantial donation" to Australian rugby, it would "seriously consider reversing its decision" to axe the Force. A Force representative said, "It was, in fact, more explicit than that. They actually gave us a ­figure. What Andrew was talking about was in the ballpark (of what they asked)." But "that is not how Clyne recalls events." He said in a statement, "I had discussions with a number of people in Perth prior to the meeting with Andrew on Tuesday to articulate some of the roadblocks for considering any possibility of reversing our ­decision to discontinue the Force" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/24).
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