The Super Rugby Saga: Get Your Ticket in the Rebels Chook Raffle

The Super Rugby Saga: Get Your Ticket in the Rebels Chook Raffle

Well readers, the full time whistle is about to be blown in the Australian Super Rugby saga, with Sydney QC Bernard Coles finalising his ruling on last week’s RugbyWA-ARU arbitration hearing.
But while the confidence in the RugbyWA camp is building, there is also a growing view that irrespective of the arbitration outcome, neither the Rebels nor the Force will get the Super Rugby axe. In which case, the whole toxic saga of culling an Australian Super Rugby team will have been a waste of time.
The Force look safe either way. A favourable arbitration ruling will ensure the Perth team remains in the Super Rugby competition for at least another three seasons. And if the Force lose the toss of the coin at arbitration, the ARU will face an immoveable object in the form of Andrew Forrest. Twiggy’s message to the ARU is unambiguous: “Come at me bro.” Besides, the smoking gun your correspondent referred to last week is still smoking away…
As for the Rebels, they’ve probably done enough to muddy the waters on their side to make it too difficult for the ARU to cull them – the clandestine $1 transfer of the licence from private owner Andrew Cox to the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU) being the latest step in their smoke-and-mirrors strategy. The ARU maintains it has the right to veto the transfer of the Rebels licence, but does Australian rugby’s governing body really have the stomach for another protracted legal blue to prove its point? Almost certainly not.
But there is still an elephant in the room for the Rebels if they want to even countenance staying in Super Rugby.
If the VRU is in fact the proud new owner of the Rebels, who is paying the bills and indemnifying the operating losses? As Cuba Gooding Junior famously asked in the movie Jerry Maguire: Show me the money. It takes a lot of chook raffles to run a Super Rugby team.
According to the propaganda out of Melbourne, the Victorian Government could have a role to play. (Perhaps former Wallaby John Welborn has some insight into that. After all, the Resolute Mining CEO’s booth at the Diggers & Dealers mining conference in Kalgoorlie this week was right next to the Victorian Government’s booth).
As your columnist has explained previously, the Victorian Government won’t directly bail out the Rebels because this would cause uproar from the many other struggling sporting teams in Bleak City. And it can’t direct event revenue from block-buster Bledisloe Cup matches held in Victoria because that money is pledged to the ARU, not the VRU.
So where will the money come from for the VRU to sustain a Super Rugby team with no sleeve or front-of-jumper sponsors? According to one theory, the VRU is looking to copy what the Force did. That is, seek a sponsorship deal with the Victorian Government’s equivalent of WA’s Road Safety Commission.
If that rumour is on the money, expect an announcement in the next few days as the Rebels look to shore up their rear guard action to stay in Super Rugby. If it’s not true, then perhaps the ARU will just wait for the Rebels to fall over to achieve its original objective of culling an Australian Super Rugby team through natural attrition.
As always, stay tuned ….