Western Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry has hit back at comments made by departing Waratahs CEO Greg Harris suggesting Perth would be better off without a Super Rugby franchise, saying he should worry about his own backyard given he was unable to grow the game in NSW.
In an interview with Fairfax Media last week, Harris said the ARU should consider scrapping the Western Force as well as adding a second Sydney team because it was a smart thing to do from a business perspective.
Sinderberry, who revealed sections of the West Australian rugby community were not impressed by such remarks from an administrator who was once CEO at the Force, said Harris was unable to leverage widespread support in his time at the helm of the Waratahs.
"He's inherited a Super Rugby finals team and I suspect he's in a situation where he hasn't been able to grow the support despite inheriting a championship team," Sinderberry said. "What's disappointing is he ignored the enormous support that's provided to the Western Force and rugby here in Western Australia. I think people took it [the story] for what it was. People are certainly disappointed. I wasn't here at the time, but my understanding [is] the Western Australian community and a lot of people were very supportive of Greg. It's certainly disappointing, but I think it's highlighting for Greg that they [NSW] haven't been able to grow the game based on the enormous success and quality of team they've had over the last few years."
Harris expressed his view the ARU should scrap its national footprint in the way the NRL and AFL have when it comes to elite teams in its professional competitions. ARU boss Bill Pulver has reiterated his commitment to supporting Western Australia as part of his strategic plan for 2016-2020.
Additionally, the ARU needs the Force to stay afloat, as it needs five operating Super Rugby franchises to meet SANZAAR broadcast agreements.
Harris said increasing the tribalism between Super Rugby franchises could be achieved with two teams in NSW, but Sinderberry was convinced that Harris' idea made little sense.
"Dividing the support as it is in NSW would seem to be a really counterproductive measure for the development of the game and the viability of the Waratahs," Sinderberry said. "The notion to split that support is quite a strange concept. What the NRL do is really their business. We have to work out what's best for rugby. We have a strong domestic game, but a very important national program as well. It's only right that we try and develop that national footprint."
There is no denying the Force are in an uneasy financial situation. The ARU bought its intellectual property for $800,000 last month, something that has been offered to clubs before, and something Sinderberry would consider buying back in the future.
Sinderberry said clubs' financial predicaments fluctuate over the years, meaning Harris' comments about ditching the west were, in his opinion, off the mark.
"History doesn't support what he's saying," Sinderberry said. "NSW has been bailed out twice, Queensland's been bailed out [and] the Rebels. I think Greg was a consultant of the Rebels for an extended period of time and saw a huge loss. So every sport, every team in the competition has had its struggles.