Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest has issued a blunt warning to the ARU – if you want to cut the Force, you are going to have to defeat me first.
The findings from last week’s arbitration hearing between RugbyWA and the ARU is set to be handed down within days. If the Force win, they will survive the axe until at least 2020.
But if they lose, the ARU is set to cull them from the Super Rugby competition. Under that scenario, the Force are almost certain to appeal to the Supreme Court if they win a right of appeal. Forrest has pledged to do whatever it takes to save the Force and he issued the ARU with a thinly-veiled threat.
“I want to be very clear to the ARU. You try to cut the Western Force, you have to go through me first, and then all of our players, and then our supporters, and then all of the parents of young players and, indeed, all proud Western Australians,” Forrest said
“This is bigger than just a rugby game. I stand behind all of these amazing people who believe in a fair go and the right for Australians to support rugby union as a national sport, not just one reduced to the eastern seaboard.”
Forrest is offering people interest-free loans to put money into the ‘Own the Force’ campaign. Instead of people paying the money back to Forrest, they pack it back to RugbyWA – effectively giving the Force $2000 for every share sold. The Force will use the money to buy back their licence from the ARU.
If the Force win the arbitration, the ARU faces a tough task to cut the Rebels. The Victorian Rugby Union confirmed last weekend it had taken control of the Melbourne Rebels. Andrew Cox’s Imperium Sports Group sold the 11,625,000 shares for just $1.