The Western Force have lost an appeal to remain in the Super Rugby competition.
RugbyWA had challenged an arbitrator’s decision to back the Australian Rugby Union’s move to drop the Force from the 2018 season.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice David Hammerschlag dismissed the appeal.
It may not be the end of the matter however.
RugbyWA quickly released a statement saying it would evaluate its legal options and consider grounds to seek leave to appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal in the coming days.
Billionaire Western Force backer Andrew Forrest has scheduled a media conference at RugbyWA headquarters in Perth at 1100 AEST.
Rugby WA said it expected the ARU would now confirm termination of the Western Force’s participation in the Super Rugby competition.
“As we understand, the ARU had formed the view in February this year that the Western Force were the only team that could legally be removed from the competition, for the ARU to suggest there was an objective and transparent process, evaluating the merits of both the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, was misleading and disrespectful to both RugbyWA and the Victorian Rugby Union,” RugbyWA said.
“This has caused significant damage to both the game and the Super Rugby competition and reflects poorly on the ARU’s own values of honesty and integrity.
“It would appear the ARU’s decision to cut a team has once again been based on prioritising the preferences of the SANZAAR’s partners rather than a respect for the domestic game and ARU’s own strategic vision of inspiring all Australians with the game of rugby union.
“RugbyWA hope that under new leadership, the ARU starts to openly and honestly address the real issues affecting the performance of Australia’s professional teams.”
The ARU initially moved to axe the Force from the Super Rugby competition last month after winning an arbitration case against RugbyWA.
RugbyWA argued that the ARU had no power to axe the Force because the governing body signed an “alliance” deal guaranteeing the franchise’s future until the end of the broadcast deal in 2020.
But the ARU successfully argued in arbitration that the deal no longer stood because the TV rights have since been renegotiated to accommodate a reduced 15-team competition.
RugbyWA, backed by Forrest, sent the issue to the NSW Supreme Court.
Force players have been left waiting nervously in the background as the team’s future is played out.
However, Force star Adam Coleman says most of the players already have alternative plans in place for their careers.