The Western Force will be axed from the Super Rugby Competition, and Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver will step down from the top job as soon as a replacement is found.
BREAKING: The ARU have decided to cut the Western Force. pic.twitter.com/ivqMogaUg2— Tom Decent (@tomdecent) 11 de agosto de 2017
These are the two revelations which have come like a huge slap in the face late on Friday afternoon. And rugby people are NOT happy, especially about the Perth-based side being cut.
The biggest mistake the ARU could have made - Time to clear the decks and start fresh.— Nathan Sharpe (@NathanSharpe5) 11 de agosto de 2017
Just killed the sport in the western half of the continent.— Damion Williams (@DamoW11) 11 de agosto de 2017
People within Australian rugby have long been in agreement that five local teams are too much for the Super Rugby Competition -- the competition which features teams from NZ, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan.
The two traditional state powers -- the Queensland Reds and the NSW Waratahs -- were considered safe, as were the A.C.T. Brumbies, who are the most successful Aussie team, having won the Super Rugby competition twice.
The team to go? It was always going to be either the Force, who debuted in 2006, or the Melbourne Rebels, who first appeared in 2011. Of the two, it's the Force who arguably had more traction with fans, yet they're the ones who've been sacrificed as the Super Rugby competition is pared back from 18 teams to 15. The other two culled teams are from South Africa.
The ARU put its decision down primarily to finances. As it said in its statement:
"Our decision to exit the Western Force has been guided primarily by financial outcomes.
As we have reinforced throughout this process, there are commercial realities which are linked to declining on-field performance across our Super Rugby teams which has put Australian Rugby in a position where it can no longer sustain five teams.
Furthermore, the significant unbudgeted support funding that has been provided to Super Rugby teams over the past five years has greatly affected our capacity to invest in community Rugby."
Billionaire businessman Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest has said he would back the Force in a legal battle, and came out swinging on Friday afternoon.
"This [decision by the ARU] is like dumping the fastest improving athlete or the silver medallist from the Olympic swimming squad and leaving the worst performer in there," he said in a statement.
"It is a ludicrous and unfair legal initiative by the ARU. This would only get through litigation and never logic."
The WA Premier hasn't given up either.
Absolutely gutted by the ARU decision to cut the @westernforce license. The State Government is right behind our team. We haven't given up.— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) 11 de agosto de 2017