They’ve been saved from oblivion for now, but the next four years loom as a make-or-break period for the Western Force.
The Force’s short-term future in Perth is secure after signing up to an alliance deal with the Australian Rugby Union.
The agreement – effectively a bail out – ended any rumours of the Force being relocated to Western Sydney.
But the long-term future of the franchise still remains up in the air, with their financial performance over the next few years set to determine their fate.
The Force need to show significant improvement – both on and off the field – if they are to be included in the next broadcast deal in four years.
Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry is confident the alliance deal with the ARU will help turn around the franchise’s ailing fortunes.
He hopes the partnership will also help the Force attract more top-end talent – something they’ve struggled to do for the majority of their existence.
“We’ve seen time and time again that we just aren’t deep enough. A couple of injures in key positions, and we fall away,” Sinderberry said.
“The team’s been incredibly courageous in how they’ve played.
“But it’s now recognising we’re up against better equipped and resourced organisations. We feel this (alliance) will take us a step closer towards parity.”
Under the new alliance, the professional rugby program of the Force will be integrated into the high-performance unit of the ARU.
Force players and professional rugby staff will become ARU employees.
The RugbyWA board will continue to be responsible for the community game in Western Australia as well as the pathway through to professional rugby through its ‘Future Force’ program.
Sinderberry will remain in his position and will have dual reporting lines to the ARU and the RugbyWA board.
The Force are yet to reach the finals in their 11 seasons in the competition.
They won just three games last year, and currently sit in 16th spot with just two wins from 12 games.
The future of coach Michael Foley remains up in the air, with the former Wallabies hooker facing a fight to stay on beyond this year.
Foley has one more year to run on his existing deal, but his position will be reviewed at the end of the season.
Sinderberry admits years of terrible on-field results have played a key role in falling crowds, which in turn have crippled the Force financially.
But he’s confident the Force’s bottom line will improve quickly once they start winning games.
When asked whether he felt the Force would still be in Perth in 10 years, Sinderberry replied: “Yes.
“There’s a lot of advantages of a team being in WA.”