The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has today confirmed that one Australian team will be removed from Super Rugby when the competition reverts to a 15-team, three-conference format in 2018.
SANZAAR’s announcement of the competition restructure on Sunday followed a month of stakeholder consultation after the SANZAAR Executive Committee formed a consensus view on Super Rugby returning to a 15-team format at its March meeting in London.
ARU Chairman Cameron Clyne said: “It is important for me to clarify firstly that the decision to remove a Super Rugby team from Australia was a decision made by the ARU, not by SANZAAR.
“This outcome, however, was only made possible by a consensus vote by the four SANZAAR partners and has been a complex process involving the many stakeholders in the competition across the globe. This process was finally completed yesterday.
“We are also very grateful to our broadcast partner Fox Sports, which has been steadfast in its support of the ARU through this process and since the inception of Super Rugby in 1996.
“Super Rugby has placed an increasingly heavy burden on the ARU business in recent years and the acceleration of revenue declines in our Super Rugby businesses has placed the game under extreme financial pressure.
“The additional funding provided by the ARU to offset Super Rugby losses has severely limited our capacity to invest further in our grassroots and high-performance areas such as player and coach development,” he said.
Clyne said the decision on which Australian team to be removed for the 2018 season will be made after consultation with two teams, the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels.
“At the request of the Board, ARU management completed an exhaustive analysis on three of our teams – the Brumbies, Western Force and Melbourne Rebels.
“The purpose of the analysis was to assess each of those teams on their financial sustainability, high performance and commercial factors, examining a range of metrics, with a view to identifying which of those three teams to remove from the competition.
“After reviewing management’s findings, the Board made the decision to eliminate the Brumbies from the process and identified that consultation is required with both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels to further understand their financial position.
“We don’t anticipate this final consultation period being a drawn-out process and expect to be able to deliver an outcome in the very near future,” he said.
Clyne said in addition to revenue declines in Super Rugby, the changing global Rugby marketplace has posed challenges for the southern hemisphere competition.
“Since the ARU expanded to five Super Rugby teams in 2010, the economy we operate in globally has changed dramatically.
“With the incentives on offer in Europe, the player exodus has been significant in Australia and indeed across our SANZAAR partners. Based on recent performance trends, it is evident that we do not currently have the playing depth in Australia to service five teams in Super Rugby.
“Performance declines by our teams since the expansion of Super Rugby has had a direct correlation with declines in revenue across their businesses.”
Clyne confirmed the ARU’s support for the restructured format for the 2018 season.
“We agree that the 18-team competition was unsustainable and that a return to a 15-team competition will provide a more engaging and overall improved product for fans.”