Australia’s professional rugby players have urged the ARU not to axe one of the country’s Super Rugby franchises, saying Australian rugby simply can’t shrink its way to success.
SANZAAR, the governing body of Super Rugby, will meet next month to map out a plan for the future structure of the competition.
If the competition is reduced from 18 teams, the ARU might voluntarily sacrifice one of its Australian franchises.
One or two South African teams could also make way.
The Western Force and Melbourne Rebels are the two Australian franchises at risk if the number of teams in the competition is reduced.
The ARU is set to meet on Monday to determine its position.
But, the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) is staunch in its opposition to any Australian franchise being cut, saying it would be a backward step for rugby in this country.
“Other codes in this country are growing their domestic competitions and fixtures at significant pace, and we simply can’t do the opposite in an attempt to shrink our way to success,” RUPA president and Wallabies lock Dean Mumm said.
“The game needs to inspire the next generation to play rugby, and a successful national shopfront is paramount to that effort.
“Maximising elite opportunities for players and enhancing our state programs is the best strategy to fight the international player drain and develop our depth for Super Rugby and Wallaby competitiveness.”
RUPA wants Australia’s five Super teams to be retained until at least the end of the current broadcast agreement, which expires in 2020.
For SANZAAR to implement any changes to the competition structure, a unanimous vote among the four joint-venture partners is required.
That means if the ARU is opposed to any reduction in Australian teams, then all five franchises will be retained for the time being.
The Melbourne Rebels have struggled financially for years, but have the safety of being privately owned.
And the Force have significantly strengthened their financial position in recent months.
A $1.5 million-per-season deal with the WA Road Safety Commission has added much-needed funds into the franchise.
And the Perth-based outfit have also launched an ‘Own The Force’ campaign in a bid to become one of Australia’s premier publicly owned clubs.
Instead of axing an Australian franchise, RUPA wants more local derbies scheduled to help boost each team’s financial position.
Some argue that the ARU could save a significant amount of money by cutting one of its five franchises.
But RUPA hit back by saying: “The costs saved by hypothetically removing a team are unclear and may not be significant depending on many variables.”