Melbourne Rebels Statement
The following is a statement from the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Pty Limited board and management:
Not on our Watch
The Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union (MRRU) deny the right of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to “cut or chop” the Melbourne Rebels from the Super Rugby Competition. MRRU expresses great disappointment in the manner in which the matter has been managed and immediately calls on the ARU to publicly state that MRRU can not and is not being ‘cut or chopped’ from the Super Rugby Competition and advise the public that it had no right to say it could do this or to ‘request the Melbourne Rebels to ‘make its case’.
Last Sunday evening, ARU Chair Cameron Clyne advised MRRU Chair Jonathan Ling that the ARU had decided to reduce the Australian representation from five to four teams and, further, that the Brumbies were ‘safe’ and that either the Rebels or the Force would be “cut”. This was contrary to advice that MRRU had previously received from ARU management.
We unequivocally reject that the ARU has any ability to “chop” or “cut” (ARU words) the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby licence. Any representation by the ARU, including its Chairman, to that effect is legally incorrect and in complete conflict with the constitution of the ARU. The ARU’s continued use of these terms and perpetuation of this myth continues to cause significant damage to MRRU and its players and staff.
Despite being advised of its inability to “chop” MRRU, the ARU proceeded down this path thereby knowingly causing significant additional damage to MRRU – its players, coaches and stakeholders
MRRU is steadfast in its stance that the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) does not have the legal right to “cut” MRRU from the competition and that MRRU is in full compliance with the requirements of its Super Rugby Participation Deed. Further, MRRU will continue to perform all of its responsibilities to the Australian Rugby Union under its licence, and fully expects the Australian Rugby Union to do the same.
MRRU notes, and is very disappointed to hear and read statements that the board and senior management of the ARU did not believe for many years in the 5 team model and did not believe that model was financially viable. MRRU notes that this concern was not conveyed to Imperium Sports Management prior to its acquisition of MRRU despite the full board and management of the ARU having the opportunity to do so.
Patently through no fault of our own MRRU has suffered significant damage (financial, reputational, commercial and personal) by the ARU’s handling of this whole process and its unnecessary public statements and actions. Given these actions MRRU has notified the ARU of its intention to seek compensation and at this time has reserved all rights.
Support of our Fans and Stakeholders
MRRU would like to acknowledge the unwavering support it has received from the club’s members, fans and commercial partners during this unsatisfactory decision-making process.
MRRU is disappointed that its staff, players, members, fans and partners have suffered anguish and emotional distress.
MRRU appreciates all the support it has received from Victoria, Australia and around the World. MRRU acknowledges the frustration of some of its fans and social media followers and apologises for that perceived lack of communication while MRRU has been confirming its legal rights. With MRRU’s position now firmly established MRRU will be very public in its stance.
Rebels and the Victorian Rugby Union
MRRU, in conjunction with the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU), is totally committed to supporting the development and growth of rugby from grassroots to elite levels.
MRRU notes the ongoing support of the VRU and its President and Eminent QC, Tim North, who said:
“The VRU is strongly committed to its partnership with MRRU and its objectives of growing the game in Victoria and a successful Super Rugby Licencee in Melbourne is critical to that realisation.”
Ironically while the ARU has been looking to “chop” the MRRU team, rugby in Victoria has never been healthier. We have experienced unprecedented growth in participation, development and national success. And the MRRU’s and VRU’s commitment to rugby’s development pathways is yielding results with a record six home-grown players contracted to the Rebels this season and a record 10 Rebels named in the 2017 Australian U20s squad.
MRRU also wants to publicly acknowledge the Premier Daniel Andrews, Treasurer Tim Pallas, Sports Minister John Eren and their teams for their support of the MRRU and Victorian Rugby in general and specifically thoroughout this whole unnecessary and damaging saga.
ARU Broadcast Money
MRRU reluctantly accepts that the ARU board has voted to reduce the number of Super Rugby teams but it does not accept that the ARU arbitrarily takes the surplus funds ($6.0m) resulting from this decision.
This money is generated by the Super Rugby licencees and should be going back to the Super Rugby licence holders on an equal basis to ensure that they can be financially independent going forward – a stated ARU objective.
Growth of the game at all levels relies heavily on the success and sustainability of the Super Rugby teams and with their success will come greater participation and a profile for the game. The ARU has substantial revenue outside of this broadcast money and a judicious and unbiased allotment of this money will be sufficient to fund the direct investment they wish to allocate to the grassroots level of the game.
The ARU has made it clear that Super Rugby is not delivering for the fans or viewers and the teams are all financially marginal. MRRU is disappointed that SANZAAR and the ARU did not use the strategic review as an opportunity to ensure that all teams played each other once by simply extending the Super Rugby Competition by two (2) more rounds, this could easily be fitted into the existing schedule by playing two rounds during the four week test window with limited impact.
This additional content would also be welcomed by the broadcaster, would make the competition fairer and importantly assist the Super Rugby teams with more opportunities to engage with fans and sponsors. We all want more Super Rugby not less, and we all want a fairer draw.
MRRU immediately requests the ARU to put an end to this ongoing saga and to allow the Australian rugby community and our Rebels Family, including players, staff, families, members, fans and stakeholders, to focus on rugby without further unwarranted distraction and mitigate any further damage.