When dealing with a crisis, one option is to go to ground and stay there until the drama washes over. That is the approach being adopted by the ARU, as the Super Rugby saga spirals towards a full-blown scandal. It is not working.
In the recent column headed: Memo to the ARU From the Dunsborough Dung Beetles, your columnist posed the following question to the ARU:
Question 4: The ARU claimed last week it was kept completely in the dark when the Rebels private owner Andrew Cox transferred ownership of the team to the VRU for $1. However, Wayne Smith reported in The Weekend Australian that “it was now becoming clear that the ARU actively worked to bring it about.” If that is true, then the ARU stands accused of actively working to ensure the Rebels were safe from the ARU axe, at the expense of the Force, while publically denying any knowledge. So did the ARU or its lawyers Clayton Utz have any role in the Cox-VRU deal or not.
While the lips at the ARU remained sealed, columnist Roy Masters shed more light on that question in the Sydney Morning Herald today. “The ARU’s claim to have been blindsided by the news of the sale of the Rebels to the VRU is also at odds with the documentation around the licence. The ARU signed off on the option for the sale of the club to the VRU and had effectively already consented to the transaction.”
Now if, as Roy Masters has reported, the ARU’s fingerprints were indeed all over the clandestine deal to transfer the Rebels licence from Cox to the VRU as part of some backroom ARU-Victorian Government plan involving future Wallaby test matches, then consider that in the context of the official media statement the ARU issued the night the Cox-VRU licence transfer become public on August 4:
“The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has tonight received confirmation from a third party that ownership of the Melbourne Rebels had transferred from Imperium Group to the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU). The Melbourne Rebels have an obligation under their Participation Deed to inform ARU of any change of ownership. To date, ARU has received no such communication from the Melbourne Rebels despite recent attempts to confirm their position. The ARU is urgently seeking to confirm the terms on which this transfer occurred.”
Your columnist can reveal those contradictory statements have not gone un-noticed in both the Federal and WA Parliaments. From the Federal perspective, would some sort of parliamentary review of the ARU’s governance be out of the question in the wake of what is happening here? Who knows.
What is known however, as your columnist has previously alluded to, is that the WA State Solicitor General is combing through the undertakings and assurances given by the ARU regarding the Force’s future which saw close to $100 million of taxpayer’s money committed to upgrading nib Stadium.
As an aside, your columnist can also reveal that departing ARU chief Bill Pulver and chairman Cameron Clyne have refused an invitation from Andrew Forrest to meet with them. Just think about that for a moment. Australian rugby is broke. And the blokes running it don’t have time to meet a billionaire who wants to back the code with his own money …
As Alice in Wonderland would have observed, things are getting curiouser and curiouser …..