Western Force lose appeal against axing from Super Rugby

SYDNEY (AP) The Western Force has lost an appeal against the Australian Rugby Union’s decision to scrap the club from Super Rugby, and is considering joining a new competition proposed by its billionaire backer.

In the New South Wales state Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice David Hammerschlag dismissed the Western Force challenge against the findings of an arbitration panel in favor of the ARU’s power to cut the Perth-based club from a revamped Super Rugby tournament in 2018.

RugbyWA, backers of the Force, argued the ARU had no right to cut the club under the terms of the alignment deal that was struck last year. In that deal, which was effectively a takeover, the ARU was reported to have guaranteed the Force’s future until at least the end of the broadcast deal in 2020.

The ARU had successfully argued in previous arbitration that the broadcast deal had since been renegotiated since the competition will be reduced from 18 teams to 15. The ARU announced the Force’s axing on Aug. 11, after months of delay that cast a shadow over the Perth-based club and the Melbourne Rebels.

RugbyWA released a statement saying it would explore other legal options, and again criticized the ARU process for deciding which of the five Australian franchises would be cut from the revamped competition.

”As we understand, the ARU had formed the view in February this year that the Western Force were the only team that could legally be removed from the competition. For the ARU to suggest there was an objective and transparent process, evaluating the merits of both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, was misleading and disrespectful,” the statement said. ”This has caused significant damage to both the game and the Super Rugby competition and reflects poorly on the ARU’s own values.”

South Africa’s Cheetahs and Kings were also axed as part of the shakeup, but those franchises have shifted to European competition.

Western Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest, who has vowed to launch a new Indo-Pacific rugby competition to accommodate the Force, said he is also considering a further challenge to the High Court of Australia.

”We’re not giving up,” Forrest told a news conference in Perth on Tuesday. ”Out of great disappointment there comes great opportunity.”