RA axe Rebels from Super Rugby, shocked players told in meeting with Waugh and Herbert by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 45 min read

Rugby Australia has announced the Melbourne Rebels will be axed from the Super Rugby Pacific competition, rejecting a private consortium’s bid to save the club because of “a lack of transparency and significant doubts over the consortium’s proposed financial model.”

In a statement released as shocked players were being addressed by CEO Phil Waugh and chairman Dan Herbert, RA confirmed The Roar‘s exclusive story on Thursday, saying: “Rugby Australia (RA) advises that the application from a Consortium seeking a Participation Agreement for the Melbourne Rebels to participate in the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific competition has been unsuccessful.  

“RA advised the known representatives of the Consortium of this outcome this morning, noting that the application did not demonstrate sufficient financial viability.

“Given the lack of detail made available to RA, the lack of transparency and the significant doubts over the consortium’s proposed financial model, RA has determined that there is an unacceptable level of risk associated with entering into a Participation Agreement with this Consortium for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.

“RA does not take this decision lightly, however it must act in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders, and to provide certainty for the Rebels’ players and staff, and all Super Rugby clubs in planning for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.”

In the statement, Waugh was quoted as saying: “It has been a testament to the players, coaches, team management and support staff that they have managed to deliver such a competitive season on the field in extremely difficult circumstances – and we are looking forward to seeing the team fighting in the finals for the first time ever.

“I want to thank the Rugby community for its patience and ongoing support of the code. Rugby Australia’s focus right now is on supporting the impacted staff and players at the Rebels.

The full RA statement appears at the bottom of this article

Rebels players were called to a 10am meeting at AAMI Park where they were addressed by Waugh and Herbert.

The RA officials spoke briefly and ran the players through the details in the press statement that was released simultaneously.

There was an opportunity for questions but it’s understood only one was asked from the players group.

After that, coach Kevin Foote took the players into a separate meeting to check in on them and determine if any wished to not travel to the weekend’s game.

The players were due to fly out to Fiji for their match against the Drua later in the morning with check in at 11.45am.

It’s understood that the players all decided to travel with the aim of making their final days a “rugby story” rather than be caught up in the admin machinations.

Sources said the news came as a shock to the players. By all likelihood they have around 10 days left of football and many wondered why the decision needed to be made today instead of after their playing commitments had finished.

The Rebels board is understood to have prepared legal action against RA in anticipation of the annoucement. It is expected that legal action will come next week.

The meeting called by RA this morning followed a Zoom meeting between RA and Rebels lawyers on Monday, which was followed by 90-minute discussion between Waugh and Leigh Clifford, the prominent Melbourne businessman heading the consortium offering to bankroll the Rebels to keep them in Super Rugby.

That meeting finished with the consortium agreeing to provide further details to RA on their financial model.

It’s understand that as the players’ meeting was starting, Clifford received an email from Waugh rejecting the consortium’s money

The Rebels have been playing under a shadow for most of the season with speculation rife that RA were to remove them from the competition.

The club noted this in its regular team announcement website post on Wednesday.

Rob Leota. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

“The sense of enormity of the upcoming weeks is not lost on the group. After a turbulent year off field, and the challenges they have faced, the Rebels have shown that with great leadership, connection and the ability to be resolute through adversity they can achieve great things as one connected group,” the article stated.

“Representing their city with pride and performing on the field for their fans has been a key component of Captain Rob Leota’s messaging throughout the season, playing a brand of Rugby unique to the club that would make the Rebels faithful proud.”

The club went into into voluntary administration earlier this year with RA willing to help keep the club alive in 2024 but offering no guarantees beyond this season.  The club had debts owed to creditors exceeding $23 million including an $11.5 million debt to the tax office.

A report from the private administrator Stephen Longley said the Rebels appeared to have traded whilst insolvent over the last five years.

“My preliminary view is that the Company may have traded whilst insolvent from 31 December 2018, and that it is likely that all debts that remain unpaid were incurred which could result in an insolvent trading claim exceeding $16.8m,” he said.

Longley suggested liquidation was not the ideal solution, accepting a settlement from a the investor group that emerged this year.

Aprivate equity-backed consortium led by former Qantas chairman Clifford announced in April that it was in the ‘final stages of high-level talks’ to move the Rebels to Melbourne’s Western Suburbs and join forces with the A-League’s Western United.

The consortium aimed to raise between $20 million and $30m to save the beleaguered club.

Under the plan,the Melbourne Rebels’ would aim to share Western United’s Wyndham Regional football facility in Tarneit, in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne.

Consortium spokesperson Georgia Widdup said in the statement the move to Tarneit “would be the game-changer that the Melbourne Rebels and the sport of rugby desperately needs in Victoria.

“We have an exciting vision and a detailed, common-sense plan to grow the sport of rugby in the fastest-growing municipality in Australia,” Widdup said.

“The Rebels are committed to the women’s game, the Pasifika community and important programs for the western region’s youth and this move will enable us to significantly expand these critical areas.”

  • Save

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

FULL RUGBY AUSTRALIA STATEMENT

Rugby Australia (RA) advises that the application from a Consortium seeking a Participation Agreement for the Melbourne Rebels to participate in the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific competition has been unsuccessful.  

RA advised the known representatives of the Consortium of this outcome this morning, noting that the application did not demonstrate sufficient financial viability.

The application relied upon projections for revenue growth and cost savings that RA believes are overly optimistic, raising significant doubts about the long-term sustainability of the proposed licensee. Further, the Consortium’s proposed alliance with Western Melbourne Group (WMG) regarding co-location at Tarneit, which is central to the proposed model, is early stage and is not yet agreed between the parties. 

The Consortium has made it clear that it is seeking a contribution from RA of several million dollars to cover forecast operating losses – this is in addition to the standard funding that would be available under a Participation Agreement.

The identity of the Consortium members has not been disclosed to RA and, as a result the credentials of the Consortium were unable to be fully assessed.

However, it is clear that key advisers to the Consortium include one or more former directors of Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Pty Ltd (MRRU), meaning that an individual or individuals involved were responsible for the governance of MRRU during the period in which the Administrator considers the company may have traded while insolvent.

Since the Rebels’ inaugural year in 2011, MRRU has not been independently financially sustainable despite significant additional investment by RA over and above committed club grants. There is nothing in the Consortium’s proposal which demonstrates with sufficient certainty that this will change. 

The Consortium has claimed to have committed $18m in funding, though no documentary evidence has been provided to support this. RA has been asked to rely on a verbal assurance, as well as confirmation that a portion of the committed funding will be contributed towards funding the Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA).

No material has been provided outlining the new ownership structure, the new delivery model across two locations (AAMI Park and Tarneit) or how the historic financial challenges faced by MRRU would be mitigated under the new model.

RA does not take this decision lightly, however it must act in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders, and to provide certainty for the Rebels’ players and staff, and all Super Rugby clubs in planning for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season. 

Given the lack of detail made available to RA, the lack of transparency and the significant doubts over the Consortium’s proposed financial model, RA has determined that there is an unacceptable level of risk associated with entering into a Participation Agreement with this Consortium for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.

Regarding the Melbourne Rebels players, RA and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) have been contingency planning for the possibility of this outcome and met with players last week to discuss options for player movement within Australian Rugby.  

This process will continue in the coming weeks, as RA engages with RUPA, players and other Super Rugby clubs regarding options for player movement. RA will communicate further details regarding this process in due course.

Commitment to Victorian Rugby
This is a decision solely regarding the participation of a men’s professional Rugby team in Melbourne that has not demonstrated financial sustainability, and which requires substantial ongoing additional financial support. RA remains deeply committed to Rugby in Victoria and will continue to invest in the game, working with Rugby Victoria, State and Federal Government and other stakeholders to grow the game.

Further:

  • RA is currently working through the appropriate footprint for the 2025 Super Rugby Women’s competition – a decision on the Rebels Super Rugby Women’s team will be made as part of this broader process later this year;
  • RA will continue to fund Rugby Victoria to oversee community Rugby and grow the game within the state, and will look at opportunities to increase funding;
  • RA will assume strategic and financial responsibility for junior talent development programs working closely with Rugby Victoria under a centralised high-performance structure – including Super Rugby U16s and U19s;
  • RA will continue to work with the Victorian Government on development of the Victorian Rugby Centre of Excellence at La Trobe University, which promises to become one of the nation’s landmark development facilities and the home of Rugby pathways in Victoria;
  • RA is evaluating options to feed Victoria’s elite men’s pathways into Australian Super Rugby clubs – a path previously trodden by 2023 John Eales Medallist Rob Valetini when he was signed by the Brumbies as a Melbourne schoolboy.

MRRU Voluntary Administration
The Administrator reported that MRRU had accumulated almost $23 million in debt prior to entering Voluntary Administration (VA) in January this year. RA were not advised by the directors of MRRU that they had been issued with ATO Director Penalty Notices – RA was only made aware of these notices when the Administrator communicated them.

The Administrator also noted that MRRU may have traded while insolvent from 31 December 2018.

The Administrator also stated that the reasons for the company’s financial challenges were a history of trading losses, lack of readily available alternative funding sources, an excessive cost structure compared to the underlying revenue base, and insufficient revenue generated from non-RA sources including membership, sponsorship and game day receipts.

Following MRRU being placed in administration, RA stepped in to fund all operations of the Melbourne Rebels in 2024, paying player and staff wages, and meeting all associated statutory obligations connected with those payments for the entirety of the season.

RA CEO Phil Waugh:
“It has been a testament to the players, coaches, team management and support staff that they have managed to deliver such a competitive season on the field in extremely difficult circumstances – and we are looking forward to seeing the team fighting in the Finals for the first time ever.

“I want to thank the Rugby community for its patience and ongoing support of the code. Rugby Australia’s focus right now is on supporting the impacted staff and players at the Rebels.

“We have a plan that will ensure Rugby has a strong future in Victoria – the infrastructure and the systems remain unchanged despite the change to the professional game in 2025, and we will continue to look for opportunities to increase that investment in the game in Victoria.

“As Australian Rugby evolves, we will consider the game’s professional footprint, and how it best serves the game and Super Rugby.

“We will continue to work closely with the Victorian Government and Visit Victoria on major events for the future, and we are looking forward to the Wallabies taking on Wales at AAMI Park this July.

“RA is evaluating possibilities for the tour game for the 2025 British & Irish Lions Tour scheduled for Marvel Stadium on 22 July 2025 and is working with the Lions on the successful delivery of that event.”

Reference :
Reference link

Alienx https://www.stuffsearth.com

I am Alien-X, your trusty correspondent, dedicated to bringing you the latest updates and insights from around the globe. Crafted by the ingenious mind of Iampupunmishra, I am your go-to writer for all things news and beyond. Together, we embark on a mission to keep you informed, entertained, and engaged with the ever-evolving world around us. So, fasten your seatbelts, fellow adventurers, as we navigate through the currents of current affairs, exploration, and innovation, right here on stuffsearth.com.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours