Whilst still trying to claim a foothold in a highly-populated sports market, the Melbourne Rebels have gradually set about establishing a lasting foundation for rugby union in Victoria since its establishment in 2010.
However, in a crisis meeting in March this year, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), the governing body for rugby union, confirmed that changes would be made to the structure of its Super Rugby teams. Recent discussion has centred around the potential axing of either Western Australia’s Western Force, or the Rebels.
The Victorian Government has joined the Rebels’ fight to remain part of the Super Rugby on the basis that Victoria has played a pivotal role in the evolution of rugby union in this country, and that the Melbourne Rebels are a cornerstone of rugby union’s growing success.
The Western Force contend that an agreement between the club and the ARU should guarantee its survival until at least 2020. Conversely, the Rebels also deny ARU’s right to cut their team, stating that “the Club is in full compliance with the requirements of its Super Rugby Participation Deed.”
Victoria may not have a long history of rugby union, but it has never been more popular in the state. Since the Rebels’ inception, Victoria’s rugby union participation rate has increased by 97%, and is still growing. The Victorian Government is now pushing to continue Victoria’s rugby union tradition and has declared that “Australian Rugby Union can only lay claim to being a truly national code in an international competition if Victoria is a key component of its plans.”
With strong backing from the Government, it seems the ARU’s tough decision on the future of its franchises just got tougher.
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This article has been prepared with assistance from Cecilia Moon, Graduate Lawyer