n Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver says billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest was simply too late to the table with a stunning $50 million offer to prop up the Western Force and assure the future of the code.
Pulver is also remaining tight-lipped on whether the ARU has a plan B should the Force win its appeal in the Supreme Court of NSW to remain in Super Rugby next season.
Speaking at the launch of the National Rugby Championship, which kicks off this weekend, Pulver once again expressed sympathy to the people of Western who look set to lose their team, the Force, from Super Rugby in 2018.
Forrest, who only announced his public support for the Force after the club’s final match in mid-July, met with ARU chairman Cameron Clyne and other directors last week to put an offer of $50 million on the table to guarantee the Force’s financial viability.
To the bewilderment of many people, the ARU turned down the offer, mainly because they have promised SANZAAR they will cut a team from next year’s competition.
Such a large sum of money could do wonders for the code in but Pulver, who was not present at the meeting in Adelaide, said it was disappointing Forrest did not come forward earlier with his cheque book.
“I wish he’d been involved in the process perhaps a little earlier, that would have been helpful,” Pulver said. “There are plenty of opportunities to add to the player development pathway. If he’s got investment ideas, we’d love to talk to him.
“We are way down the track, sitting here about five months from kick-off in Super Rugby ??? having made commitments to SANZAAR to go to four teams and having had an [extraordinary general meeting] where our members voted to go to four teams. It’s a little late in the process to be making that sort of change.
“If Mr Forrest is looking to invest in n rugby, that’s a wonderful thing and there are plenty of opportunities. I understand a range of $10 [million] to $50 million was tabled in relation to investment in the n Rugby Foundation.”
Pulver said there was no news to report on the Force’s future.
“Last Wednesday it was heard, and I think some time next week we’ll hear an outcome and we’ll respond to that when we get to it,” Pulver said. “I can’t predict it [the outcome]. We just have to wait and see what the judge comes up with.”
Asked whether the ARU had a plan B should they be unable to remove the Force, which would create all sorts of complications, Pulver replied: “We’ll deal with that when we get to it. We’ll find out next week what the result of the appeal is and we’ll respond to that.”
Pulver reiterated the ARU’s position that could not maintain five Super Rugby teams.
“It is the right thing,” Pulver said. “If you look at the Super Rugby season we’ve just finished we were 0 and 27 against NZ teams. From a player depth perspective we’re not adequate, and from a financial perspective we don’t have the resources to get there.”
As for his own position as chief executive, Pulver said he expected to be out the door by the end of the year after announcing earlier this month he had handed in his resignation.
“I understand the board is appointing a recruitment agency to find a new CEO and I will simply stay on until they find that new CEO, presumably some time before Christmas,” Pulver said.
Pulver was keen to talk about one of rugby’s better weekends on the back of a packed North Sydney Oval for the Shute Shield final as well as the Wallabies’ valiant effort in Dunedin against the All Blacks.
“Club rugby is in great shape,” Pulver said. “The Sydney competition was really well run and [there is a] good fan base coming out to watch the games, and I think it’s a good sign of the grassroots.
“It was great tonic to see how the [Wallabies] played on the weekend. To see them push the No.1 team in the world – arguably the best team of all time – the way they did on the weekend was very encouraging.”