The Super Rugby Saga: Why the Rebels Owner Won’t Roll the Dice

So here we are, 72 days into a process of culling an Australian Super Rugby team which was meant to take less than 72 hours.
What’s more, there’s still about six weeks or so before the ARU and RugbyWA are scheduled to start their arbitration hearing on July 31. That arbitration hearing will of course focus on whether the alliance agreement between the ARU and RugbyWA safeguards the Western Force in the Super Rugby competition until 2020.
But through the haze of bluff, bluster and outright propaganda, your columnist sees the signs of a resolution ahead of the 31 July arbitration hearing.
It was probably lost on most, but amid all the noise ahead of tomorrow’s ARU extraordinary general meeting, embattled ARU chief executive Bill Pulver gave a subtle clue to how the Australian Super Rugby saga might be resolved.
Mr Pulver told Fairfax Media: “I am in multiple discussions at the moment, which I am not at liberty to discuss.”
Take it from me, what Bill is not at liberty to discuss in public is that the ARU remains in active discussions with the private owner of the Melbourne Rebels, businessman Andrew Cox, to buy back the Rebels licence.
And despite the public denials, Cox has every reason to conclude those discussions with the ARU before 31 July.
Why? Because being the shrewd businessman he is, Cox realises he will lose all his leverage in his discussions with the ARU if the July 31 arbitration hearing ends up supporting the view taken by pre-eminent West Australian silk Malcolm McCusker that the Force are legally bullet proof – courtesy of the ARU alliance agreement. Will Cox roll the dice and let that arbitration hearing takes its course? Yeah, nah.
As we have stressed many times in this column, Cox – despite his poker face and the support of a parochial eastern states media – is a seller all right.
As Chrissie Hynde sang in the Pretenders hit Hymn To Her, Some things change, some stay the same. What stays the same here is that Cox, as owner of the Rebels, continues to lose money, sponsorship and crowd support – not to mention his coach. And there are no obvious signs of a turnaround for Cox on or off the field.
As was the case from day one, the solution to the Australian Super Rugby Saga comes down to dollars and cents. My tip is that Bill Pulver will be at liberty to confirm that before 31 July.