Melbourne Rebels to Disband After 14 Seasons Despite Recent Success

The Melbourne Rebels will cease operations as a Super Rugby team following their 14th season. Rugby Australia announced the decision, citing financial instability despite a recent proposal for rescue funding. The Rebels have struggled financially since inception but qualified for the playoffs for the first time this season.

Reuters | Melbourne | Updated: 30-05-2024 06:33 IST | Created: 30-05-2024 06:33 IST
Melbourne Rebels to Disband After 14 Seasons Despite Recent Success
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The Melbourne Rebels will cease to exist as a Super Rugby team at the end of their 14th season next month after Rugby Australia announced on Thursday that it had rejected a rescue deal for the crisis-hit team. The team was founded in one of Australia's two biggest sports markets when Super Rugby expanded to 15 teams in 2011 but has been in administration since January with debts of A$23 million ($15.20 million).

Rugby Australia agreed to bankroll the team for the current season of Super Rugby Pacific but on Thursday chief executive Phil Waugh informed the players and staff that the franchise would be shuttered after that. A consortium had put forward a plan to fund the club until 2030 if Rugby Australia handed back the franchise licence but the governing body rejected their proposal because it did not "demonstrate sufficient financial viability".

"RA advises that the application from a consortium seeking a participation agreement for the Melbourne Rebels to participate in the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific competition has been unsuccessful," RA said in a statement. "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."

RA said the Rebels had not "been independently financially sustainable" since 2011 and nothing in the consortium plan suggested that would change. "Given the lack of detail made available to RA, the lack of transparency and the significant doubts over the consortiums proposed financial model, RA has determined that there is an unacceptable level of risk," the statement added.

RA said it remained committed to the development of the game in the state of Victoria, where Australian Rules is by far the dominant winter football code. The Rebels were scheduled to play the British and Irish Lions during their tour of Australia next year.

"RA is evaluating possibilities for the tour game for the 2025 British & Irish Lions Tour scheduled ... and is working with the Lions on the successful delivery of that event," Waugh said. Australia will now be reduced to four Super Rugby teams and the competition to 11 franchises for the 2025 season.

Ironically, after 13 years of mostly struggle on the pitch, the Rebels have qualified for the Super Rugby playoffs for the first time this season. They play their final match of the regular season against Fijian Drua in Fiji on Saturday.

"It has been a testament to the players, coaches, team management and support staff that they have managed to deliver such a competitive season on the field in extremely difficult circumstances," Waugh added. ($1 = 1.5135 Australian dollars)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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