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21 Aug 2017 8:52
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby

    Billionaire Forrest calls for ARU cleanout

    The Western Force are fighting for their Super Rugby survival and it appears the Supreme Court is their last hope of escaping the axe.

    Billionaire crusader Andrew Forrest and former Wallaby Matt Hodgson have called for the remaining ARU board members to fall on their swords following their decision to axe the Western Force.

    The Force are facing rugby extinction following the ARU's decision to cull the team, but the franchise has vowed to take the matter to the courts.

    Led by Forrest, the Force are in the process of applying for an injunction and hope to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.

    Former RugbyWA chairman Geoff Stooke was the only ARU board member opposed to axing the Force.

    Stooke labelled the ARU's decision to axe the Force as "biased" and quit his post in protest.

    He said it was an outrageous decision to retain the Melbourne Rebels given they had cost the ARU around $17.5 million in additional costs compared to the Force's $5.5 million.

    "An appropriate consultation process was never in place and in my view the Western Force was always being targeted for removal," Stooke wrote in his resignation letter.

    ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has already announced he will step down once a successor is found.

    Chief operations manager Rob Clarke and chief financial officer Todd Day resigned from their positions earlier this year.

    But ARU chairman Cameron Clyne has indicated he will stay the course.

    Forrest is demanding a complete overhaul of the board.

    "The ARU insists the process used to choose a team to axe was critical to the future of Australian rugby," Forrest said.

    "However, if such a decision was made through an unfair and - what is emerging slowly to light - a secretive process, then the chair and the remaining board members must stand aside immediately."

    Force greats Hodgson and ex-Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe say an ARU overhaul is overdue.

    "It should have been cleared probably when this drama started. They put rugby in a pretty bad position," Hodgson said.

    "They talk about a national blueprint. But if you cut out half of Australia, how could it be a national competition?"

    Forrest has vowed to do everything within his power to ensure the franchise survives.

    He has even told the ARU that he would bankroll any potential future losses by the Force if they were allowed to stay in the competition.

    Forrest said the ARU's decision was a gross injustice.

    He said if the ARU ever published the data used to justify the decision to axe the Force, the governing body would be vilified for its lack of even the most basic credibility.

    "The three people who are the architect of this decision inside the ARU have resigned. I don't blame them for that," Forrest said.

    If the Force's appeal application is denied, their legal avenues will have been exhausted.

    But Forrest hinted that might not be the end of it.

    "There's no good plan A without a good plan B. I've just got to work that out," he said.

    © 2017 NZN, NZCity

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