Western Force have been dealt another, possibly fatal, blow in their bid to stay in Super Rugby.
The Perth-based side have been cut from the multinational league, leaving their competitive future in limbo, and while billionaire backer Andrew Forrest could go as far as the high court in Australia, the prospect of forming an Indo-Pacific league to rival Super Rugby has now become a distinct possibility.
Speaking to the media after the Force lost their appeal in the Supreme Court to be allowed to stay in the competition, Forrest said that the fight was not over – whatever capacity that fight may now be in:
“This is the beginning of the new Indo-Pacific competition. And I am delighted to be an instigator of it. I think Sanzaar has been a very clear mistake for Australian rugby – shrinking the game as opposed to growing it.
“I would not be surprised, and I would be encouraging South Africa and New Zealand and the other [Super Rugby] teams to come across. The Indo-Pacific region is broad. Broadcasters need huge populations and huge economies.
“They are not represented in Sanzaar necessarily with NZ, Australia, and South Africa dominating it. But if we get up to the Indo-Pacific region, that’s where all the world’s economic growth is. That’s where the world’s population is. And that’s where the game of rugby will be very powerful and centred from Western Australia.”
Unfortunately for the Force, the lure of Super Rugby might prove too strong for some of their players. The decision to cut the team from the competition could see something of a mass exodus from Perth Oval in the near future, including coach Dave Wessels who was pretty non-committal when it came to discussing his own future after the verdict.
Captain Matt Hodgson, meanwhile, held back the tears as he spoke out against the ARU’s initial decision:
“I think fans will be angry. The process, the reason, the transparency, the corruption, it’s been frustrating and I think the fans, the players won’t deal with it well. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t show up at all.”
Little is known about the new proposed Indo-Pacific league other than the fact that it would be made up of six teams (Force being one of them) and could feature teams from the surrounding nations such as Samoa and Fiji.
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