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ARU agrees rescue plan for Western Force

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and RugbyWA, the governing body of the sport in Western Australia, have reached an agreement to secure the future of Super Rugby franchise Western Force.

The Perth-based club has been plagued by recent financial difficulties but the alliance between the ARU and RugbyWA will allow it to continue operating until at least 2020.

The agreement will see the integration of the Western Force’s professional rugby programme into the ARU’s High Performance Unit. The ARU in February stepped in to acquire Western Force’s IP rights, which include its Super Rugby licence, to aid the club’s cause. Discussions have been held since and details of the alliance were announced today (Friday).

“RugbyWA and the Western Force are not alone in their challenges to remain viable as a professional sports entity in Australia,” ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said. “Numerous teams across several codes are facing the same economic environment across professional sport and the ARU has been looking at ways to create a more efficient and effective way to run our Super Rugby businesses.

“The ARU and RugbyWA have collectively created a model which we believe will be more sustainable for our Super Rugby organisations in Australia. Ultimately the alliance aims to deliver financial sustainability and improved high-performance outcomes for the Western Force.”

The east coast has traditionally been Australian rugby union’s hotbed and the Western Force, which was formed in 2006, has struggled to compete financially with other franchises as a result.

Pulver added: “The other really important outcome is that the Western Force will continue to be deeply entrenched in the Perth community. They will continue to have a brand which is unique to them.”

RugbyWA chairman Tony Howarth said: “We are confident that through this partnership we can provide a more attractive rugby program here in Perth by the Force being integrated into the ARU’s high-performance unit.

“This will enable the Force to continue the journey we started over 10 years ago to bring outstanding rugby talent to Perth, develop Wallabies and play a style of rugby that attracts members, sponsors and connects with the large rugby community we have in the West. It also assures the financial viability of the team for the future.”

Western Force confirmed in a statement that the alliance will give the club financial stability until at least 2020, when the ARU’s current broadcast agreement expires. The club added that the terms of its rights and participation agreements will be reviewed upon the expiration of the deal but stated it “firmly” sees a place for a Western Australia-based Super Rugby franchise in the future.