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Melbourne Rebels axed from Super Rugby Pacific

The financially-stricken Melbourne Rebels have been cut from the Super Rugby Pacific competition by Rugby Australia.

The financially-stricken Melbourne Rebels have been cut from the Super Rugby Pacific competition by Rugby Australia. Photo: Getty

The Melbourne Rebels have been cut from the Super Rugby Pacific competition, with Rugby Australia deeming a private consortium’s rescue plan had an “unacceptable level of risk”.

RA chief executive Phil Waugh and chairman Daniel Herbert flew to Melbourne on Thursday to deliver the devastating blow for the financially-stricken club.

The timing was brutal. Staff and players were called to Rebels headquarters as they were preparing to fly to Fiji for their final-round clash against the Drua on Saturday.

Beyond that, the side, which is seventh on the ladder, is preparing for its first finals campaign in 14 years in the competition.

Melbourne has been in voluntary administration since January. It has debts of more than $23 million,including a $11.5 million owed to the tax office.

RA cut staff and took over player and coaching payments for the 2024 season, with the Rebels handing over their competition licence.

A private consortium put forward a plan to fund the club until 2030. It was supported by the administrator but RA and the ATO voted against the deal at the creditors’ meeting.

It was contingent on RA handing back the licence. The governing body opted instead to cut the club, saying it didn’t demonstrate sufficient financial viability.

In a statement on Thursday, RA said the consortium’s projections for revenue growth and cost savings were “overly optimistic” and requiring additional funding from head office.

“Given the lack of detail made available to RA, the lack of transparency and the significant doubts over the consortium’s proposed financial model, RA has determined that there is an unacceptable level of risk associated with entering into a participation agreement with this consortium for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season,” it said.

“RA does not take this decision lightly. However, it must act in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders, and to provide certainty for the Rebels’ players and staff, and all Super Rugby clubs in planning for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.”

Ahead of a media conference at midday, Waugh said that RA would continue to back rugby in Victoria.

He said RA and the Rugby Union Players Association were working on relocating the men’s players to other Australian clubs for next season.

A decision on the women’s Rebels team would be made later in the year.

“Rugby Australia’s focus right now is on supporting the impacted staff and players at the Rebels” Waugh said.

“We have a plan that will ensure rugby has a strong future in Victoria – the infrastructure and the systems remain unchanged despite the change to the professional game in 2025, and we will continue to look for opportunities to increase that investment in the game in Victoria.”

– AAP

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