THE Western Force have been axed from Super Rugby.
The WA club lost its fight to survive, with the Australian Rugby Union this afternoon resolving to discontinue its licence.
It ends a drawn-out saga where the Force was battling with the Melbourne Rebels to remain in the competition.
Rugby WA is almost certain to take the case to the Supreme Court if they win a right of appeal.
“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,” ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said.
“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.
“This is a sad day for rugby, especially for Western Force fans.
“We accept that there will be anger and resentment over this decision and we sympathise with those fans. We sincerely hope that they are not lost to the game forever.
“The decision to exit the Western Force from Super Rugby is not a decision to abandon the game in Western Australia.
“Western Australia will retain an important place in Australian rugby and the ARU will continue to support youth development programs and the community game in the West.
“There will be a clear pathway for young Western Australian rugby players to reach the highest level and represent the Wallabies.”
In a statement, RugbyWA said it was “considering all options”, including bringing urgent proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW.
“Whilst the board of RugbyWA is extremely disappointed with the ARU’s stated position, with the support of the Rugby community and numerous WA business identities including Mr Andrew Forrest we will continue the fight to retain the Force in Western Australia,” the statement said.
Mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest said he would continue to throw his weight behind the Force’s survival fight.
“This is like dumping the fastest improving athlete or the silver medalist from the Olympic swimming squad and leaving the worst performer in there,” Mr Forrest said of the decision to keep the Rebels and axe the Force.
“It is a ludicrous and unfair legal initiative by the ARU. This would only get through litigation and never logic.” “We want leadership from the Australian Rugby Union, not cowardly litigation.
“But if they want to continue to fight us, we will happily take them on for as long as it takes.”
Former Wallaby hooker and inaugural Western Force player Brendan Cannon described the decision to dump the WA team as a “tragedy”.
“The ramifications are so significant on the human side, that I think the ARU have been so neglectful and incredibly naïve in the way they have handled the whole process,” Cannon told Radio 4BC in Brisbane.
“And dont forget the emotional toll it has on all the people affected by it. It is a tragedy, it really is.”
The decision came as ARU chief Bill Pulver announced he was stepping down from the role once a replacement was found.