Australian Super Rugby Sides' Merger Plan Could Form Eastern Seaboard Powerhouse
Australian Super Rugby sides New South Wales Waratahs, Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds "are considering merging their operations to form an eastern seaboard rugby powerhouse" under a radical proposal to be put before the Australian Rugby Union board at the end of the month, according to Robinson, Dutton & Polkinghorne of the CANBERRA TIMES. In what "could be the biggest reform to the structure of rugby in Australia since the game turned professional, the three east coast provinces would retain their independence but report to a head of Super Rugby," who would in turn be answerable to ARU CEO Bill Pulver. The two remaining Austrialan Conference Super League sides Brumbies and Western Force "are understood to have opted out of the proposed collaboration at this stage but have not ruled out joining the new entity in the future." In the eastern seaboard plan, NSW, Queensland and Melbourne "would hand over limited control to the ARU but retain ownership of assets." The proposal, while still in the very early stages of negotiations, "aims to pool the three unions' assets and create a bigger, more powerful player in the Australian sporting landscape." It would also "bring Australia a step closer to the centralised model used in New Zealand, where the five Super Rugby teams maintain control over their own administrative and membership operations but cede control to the NZ Rugby Union on issues including high performance." Queensland Rugby Union CEO Jim Carmichael said, "''I have made no secret of our financial challenges at an administrative level. Doing nothing is not an option and our discussions within the Australian rugby community will continue" (CANBERRA TIMES, 2/14).