The Super Rugby Saga: Friday On My Mind

Readers who were around in the late 1960s might remember the Easybeats singing their hit song Friday On My Mind. 50 years on, followers of the Australian Super Rugby saga should also have Friday on their minds.
That’s because this Friday is when the ARU is scheduled to hold its mediation talks with the Rebels. And as your columnist will explain, those talks might be pivotal in determining the outcome of the Australian Super Rugby saga.
Mediation sounds a lot like arbitration. But there is a significant difference between the two terms which is perhaps best explained by the positions taken by the Rebels and the Force as they seek to avoid the Super Rugby axe.
Arbitration is the process the ARU and the Force have pencilled in for the week starting July 31 in an attempt to resolve their legal differences – and thus avoid a full-blown court case.
Rather than arbitration, the ARU and the Rebels are going down the mediation path. This is because while the Rebels have huffed and puffed about taking legal action against the ARU for unspecified damages, they haven’t actually initiated any court proceedings at all. So there is nothing to arbitrate.
So what will happen on Friday? Who knows – but one potential outcome is that the mediation talks could flush out the true position of Rebels owner Andrew Cox. And in particular, what price Cox will sell his Super Rugby licence to the ARU for and whether that asking price is acceptable to the ARU. When the time comes to talk turkey about price on Friday, Cox’s representatives at the mediation conference will no doubt be holding some fingers up. This will be to either (a) signal their selling price, or (b) to give the ARU the two-finger salute.
As we have repeated many times in this column, Cox has plenty of reasons to sell. He is burning money on his investment in the Rebels with nothing in sight to extinguish the flames. His Rebels co-owner Peter Sidwell is, from all accounts, even less enamoured with the thought of throwing good money after bad. To Cox and Sidwell, the ARU is a gift horse.
Your columnist has referred to the arbitration between the ARU and the Force being pencilled in for the week starting July 31, rather than being set in stone, because any agreement reached between Cox and the ARU during Friday’s mediation talks could eliminate the need for the Force-ARU arbitration conference.
Perhaps that’s just all wishful thinking. Just like it would be wishful thinking for the private owners of the Rebels to expect the ARU to axe the Force and then provide financial assurances to keep the Melbourne team from folding a season or so down the track.
Stay tuned, as always…