Infighting threatens Melbourne Super bid
August 31, 2009
John O'Neill has called for unity among the competing Super Rugby parties in Australia © Getty Images
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief John O'Neill has warned that infighting might derail the bid to bring a fifth Super Rugby franchise to Australia.
The ARU are set to decide on the ownership of any new franchise at a board meeting on Tuesday, after asking competing parties in Victoria to work together to provide a stronger bid for Melbourne to host the franchise.
Any team that is ratified by SANZAR in October will compete in the newly-formed Australian conference but the ARU face stern competition from the Southern Kings, a South African franchise based in Port Elizabeth.
The VicSuper15 group and the Victoria Rugby Union have been at loggerheads over who will lead the bid, with VicSuper15 believed to be the favourite of the ARU due to the private backing of mining kingpin Kevin Maloney.
''Everyone wants to be on the bus but they're squabbling over who wants to be the driver,'' O'Neill told the Sydney Morning Herald. ''It's very much about local personalities, and it's exploded like Mt Vesuvius with a bucket of the proverbial being thrown over the ARU.
''If Melbourne don't get their act together, there is a real risk of losing the franchise to South Africa. There is another bidder for the licence, and rugby people have got to realise this is not an ARU decision but a SANZAR decision where the team is located. 'Sure the 15th team will play in the Australian conference with the other four Australian teams but the location of the team is yet to be determined."
O'Neill admitted that the prospect of a South African team filling the position would devalue the television rights available, with a premium offered for a tournament featuring five Australian sides playing each other twice.
''Four Australian teams travelling in and out of South Africa every second week would be far from ideal,'' he said. ''We're in the middle of selling our broadcast rights, and News Ltd have indicated they will pay a premium if the fifth team is based in Australia. 'The significant increase in local content is the driver of the expected increase.''