Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver Grilled Senate Hearing On Rugby Future
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver faced "hostile questioning" at a Senate hearing where it was suggested the Melbourne Rebels "received more than double the funding of the Western Force before the latter's axing from the Super Rugby competition," according to the AAP. The title of the hearing was the "Future of rugby union in Australia," but it was "dominated by the issues surrounding the recent decision to dump the Force." In the past three years, "the Force received the least amount of funding of Australia's five teams and the Rebels the most," Western Australia Senator Linda Reynolds told the hearing, citing ARU statements. Reynolds added, "Any way you look at this, the Force got the least amount of these Super Rugby grants than any other team -- in some cases they get almost half of what the Rebels got." Pulver said that he "could not say whether Senator Reynolds' figures were correct or not," which she said was "surprising" as he was the governing body's CEO. The questioning "became heated when Pulver refused to reveal what support or deals were done with the Rebels and Cox," citing confidentiality agreements (AAP, 9/20). In Canberra, Chris Dutton reported Pulver "leapt to the defence of the ACT Brumbies," describing the club as an "iconic rugby brand." Pulver said that the Brumbies "face significant challenges because they are based in a politically dominated market" as questions were raised about why the Canberra club "survived the Super Rugby axe." The Brumbies were "drawn back into the debate" as senators examined why the Force was exiled instead of the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels. But Pulver was "quick to back the ARU's decision to quarantine the Brumbies," saying that "they were the only Australian franchise to never ask for financial assistance" (CANBERRA TIMES, 9/20).
'TOTALLY BASELESS': In Sydney, Iain Payten reported former ARU COO Rob Clarke "rejected accusations" from former Force CEO Mark Sinderberry that he "undermined the WA club as a secret Melbourne Rebels supporter during the Super Rugby downsizing process." Clarke's involvement as a leading ARU figure in the decision to shut down the Force "came under attack," with Sinderberry claiming the former Rebels CEO was "supporting" the Melbourne club during the deliberations. He alleged Clarke gave a confidential alliance agreement document to Victorian Rugby Union President Tim North "in the middle of the saga." Clarke said, "I absolutely empathize with the emotion of the Western Force and their supporters, but any allegations that have been made are totally baseless and I have nothing more to say on the matter" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/21).