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Rugby: Merger plan to form eastern seaboard powerhouse

Date

Georgina Robinson, Chris Dutton, David Polkinghorne

The Waratahs, Reds and Rebels are considering merging their operations to form an eastern seaboard rugby powerhouse under a radical proposal to be put before the ARU board at the end of the month.

In what could be the biggest reform to the structure of rugby in Australia since the game turned professional, the three east coast provinces would retain their independence but report to a head of Super Rugby, who would in turn be answerable to ARU boss Bill Pulver.

The Brumbies and Force are understood to have opted out of the proposed collaboration at this stage but have not ruled out joining the new entity in the future.

The Brumbies are still searching for a new chief executive but the club is expected to finalise its decision any day.

The Brumbies are down to the final candidates and hope to have a new boss before the Super Rugby season kicks off on February 22.

In the eastern seaboard plan, NSW, Queensland and Melbourne would hand over limited control to the ARU but retain ownership of assets.

Fairfax Media understands the proposal, while still in the very early stages of negotiations, aims to pool the three unions' assets and create a bigger, more powerful player in the Australian sporting landscape.

It would also bring Australia a step closer to the centralised model used in New Zealand, where the five Super Rugby teams maintain control over their own administrative and membership operations but cede control to the NZ Rugby Union on issues including high performance.

The concept is understood to be driven by Pulver, using the commercial success of the Queensland Reds - who are targeting 50,000 members by the end of the year - as a template for the new entity.

QRU chief executive Jim Carmichael is said to be a front-runner to head up the new operation if it gets off the ground.

Pulver would not comment on details of the proposal but said the ARU met regularly with Super Rugby bosses to talk through options for the future.

''I have made no secret of our financial challenges at an administrative level,'' he said. ''Doing nothing is not an option and our discussions within the Australian rugby community will continue.''

The ARU board will meet next on February 24 and it's understood the proposed east-coast collaboration is high on the agenda.

The ARU already controls the Rebels, taking the Melbourne club under its control last year after founding backer Harold Mitchell cut off his funding. But NSW and Queensland, the two biggest rugby markets in the country, are said to favour the proposal.

Talk of further centralising the Australian Super Rugby teams has been on the agenda for some time against a backdrop of difficult financial circumstances.

The cash-strapped ARU has, among other measures, imposed a controversial $200 levy on every junior team and senior club in the country.

The governing body, which largely props up the Super Rugby clubs but exerts no control over their operations, finished with a $10 million surplus last year despite bringing in $140 million in revenue.

That revenue is projected to drop to $100 million this year and $80 million next year due to the World Cup.

Wallabies players have already agreed to have their match fees slashed from $14,000 per Test to $10,000.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
 
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