Australian Rugby Club Melbourne Rebels To Return To State Ownership
Australian rugby's grand experiment in private ownership is "about to come to an end" with the ownership of the Super Rugby club Melbourne Rebels set to be transferred to the Victorian Rugby Union, according to Bret Harris of THE AUSTRALIAN. It is understood that the Rebels' major shareholder, media buyer Harold Mitchell, "will gift his shares to the VRU." Whether the Rebels' other shareholders maintain any private equity in the franchise "remains to be seen." Either way, the Australian Rugby Union is "expected to provide" the clubs with financial assistance as it moves from a privately owned to a state-owned model. When asked about the ownership of the Rebels, ARU CEO Bill Pulver said, "I am in discussions with the Rebels' owners, but there is nothing I can confirm." The Rebels' situation "not only raises questions about the future funding" of the Melbourne franchise but the role of private ownership of Australian Super Rugby teams in general. The licences of other Super Rugby franchises -- the Brumbies, New South Wales Waratahs, Queensland Reds and Western Force -- "are owned by state unions" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/25).