‘Cut Force out of Super Rugby’ – ‘Tahs CEO

Date published: March 11 2016

Waratahs CEO Greg Harris has said the Australian Rugby Union should replace the Force with a second Sydney Super Rugby team.

Harris explained his statement regarding the Perth franchise by saying ARU does not have the finacial power to take on the other major footballing codes on a national basis.

Harris, former Western Force CEO, will be replaced as Waratahs boss by New Zealander Andrew Hore in mid-April as he finished his four-year tenure this week and said it would be better for ARU, from a strictly business sense, to rather cut its losses than to try and make Western Australia work – a region Harris believes cannot prosper in such a saturated national sports market.

"Not even the NRL has a national footprint," Harris told The Canberra Times.

"They tried Adelaide, they tried Perth, but couldn't make it work, so what makes you think the ARU has the capacity to do it? It doesn't.

"And if you look at a small marketplace like Perth…there's a lot of good people and a lot of capable people, but the true fact of the matter is whether or not it has the economy to be able to underwrite a club is another thing. If you're in a business mode you work to your strengths and strength is the marketplace on the east coast."

Harris said the current Super Rugby structure, which is set for the next five years, will pose a great challenge for the game in Australia in future.

"Rugby can take a lead through the AFL and soccer," said Harris. 

"In [AFL] Brisbane and Sydney, you've got two teams because you need to have that rivalry established. In soccer, they [FFA] put two teams in [Sydney and Melbourne], so you've got a cross-town rivalry. The issue we've got here is that we don't have that tribalism. Our closest competition is the Brumbies who are three and a half hours away."

When asked if two Sydney Super Rugby teams could work, Harris said: "You want me to tell you something that you know?" 

"At the end of the day, the ARU chairman [Cameron Clyne] is a former banker. I wonder how many ATMs he's got in Perth and I wonder how many he's got in Sydney and Brisbane? Sydney and Brisbane are where your major stakeholders are. If you don't protect them, then you're going to lose them."

Harris also said that club rugby was a major asset for ARU in New South Wales and Queensland and that a propitious broadcast deal should have prompted investment in such areas that have, from a business sense, previously reaped rewards and will continue to do so.

"If you're in a situation whereby you're under siege by the NRL, by the AFL and by soccer, what do you do with your major assets? You protect the assets that actually produce for you," he said.

"I don't see that in the national strategy. The clubs backed Bill [Pulver] when he needed his NRC, cannibalised their own program, did everything for the ARU. When the ARU's got some funds, what's it done? Actually ignored them. It's not even the money, it's the respect."