THEY have poured blood, sweat, and tears on the field, and now Western Force players are opening up their wallets in a bid to save the Super Rugby franchise from extinction.
The Force face the prospect of being cut from the Super Rugby competition if the number of Australian teams is reduced from five to four in the near future.
Currently, the Super competition features 18 teams, but that could be reduced as early as 2018 if SANZAAR decides it’s in the best interests of the game.
The governing body will wait until March before making a call on that front.
In the meantime, the Force are getting on the front foot to ensure they become so financially stable that it won’t make sense to get rid of them.
Under the ambitious scheme, the Force are aiming to become Australia’s premier community-owned club in a campaign they’ve dubbed ‘Own The Force’.
The new ownership model will be based on the sale of certificates at a value of $1000 each.
The Force have already received almost 4300 expressions of interest, with the franchise’s players and staff among the people willing to invest.
“My understanding is just about all of the players have indicated a degree of interest in the program,” Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry told AAP.
“That’s a very strong indication of their belief and desire to see the Western Force continue.”
The Force aim to sell 5000 certificates in what would inject $5 million into the club.
They would then use that money to effectively buy back the Force from the ARU.
The two bodies formed an “alliance” earlier this year, with the bailout lifting $4 million of debt from the Force’s shoulders.
Sinderberry said it was now up to the Force to show they would be an asset – rather than a financial burden – to Australian rugby.
“The ARU would like to see a national footprint. It’s just about seeing if it’s affordable,” Sinderberry said.
“If we can collectively in WA ensure we’re not a financial burden on the ARU, then that’s a good thing for Australian Rugby.”
The Force will still retain strong ties with the ARU after the buy-back, including access to its high-performance program.
That partnership is seen as crucial in helping the Force become a title contender.
The Perth-based franchise has never reached the finals in their 11 seasons in the competition, and dwindling crowds have hurt their financial position in recent years.
Sinderberry said the club needed financial stability along with on-field success to truly thrive.
The prospectus on the new ownership model is expected to be released next week.
WHAT THE $1000 CERTIFICATE WILL BUY YOU
*Voting rights to an advisory committee and the new Western Force board of management
*Approval of the reappointment of key positions within the Western Force organisation
*Input into match day and team activities and specific owner’s functions
*A range of discounts on both Western Force membership purchases and Rugby WA player registration fees