The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and RugbyWA announced that they have finalised an alliance agreement, enabling the Western Force to continue as a Western Australian team.
Under the agreement the ARU will integrate the professional rugby program of the Western Force into the High Performance Unit of the ARU.
The alliance agreement comes after several weeks of planning between the ARU and RugbyWA to address financial concerns resulting from competitive challenges of having a team based away from Rugby’s traditional heartland on the east coast and the changing economic climate in Western Australia, which have affected the Perth-based club’s bottom line.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said: “RugbyWA and the Western Force are not alone in their challenges to remain viable as a professional sports entity in Australia.
“Numerous teams across several codes are facing the same environment economic 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.”
Pulver said the alliance will be managed effectively in order to maintain the Western Force’s unique identity and connection to the local community.
“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.”
Under the alliance Western Force players and professional rugby staff will become ARU employees.
The RugbyWA board will continue to be responsible for the community game in Western Australia and the pathway through to professional rugby through its ‘Future Force’ program.
Current RugbyWA CEO, Mark Sinderberry will remain in his position and will have dual reporting lines to the ARU and the RugbyWA board.
Tony Howarth, RugbyWA Chairman said: “The RugbyWA Board is excited to have developed this alliance with the ARU. 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.”
Pulver added: “From an Australian Rugby point of view, it’s not only essential that we continue to support RugbyWA and the Western Force but to ensure the game remains strong at the community level in Western Australia and that the Super Rugby team is given the best opportunity to succeed.
“It is our absolute priority at all times to act with the best interests of Australian Rugby as a whole and to protect the long term health and prosperity of the game in Australia.
“It has been well documented that Australian Rugby has faced financial challenges in recent years and a range of measures were taken to ensure it remained sustainable. A significant new broadcast agreement has relieved pressure on the game but it must remain vigilant in the face of a challenging sporting landscape in Australia.”