Not surprising many Western Australians are angry. They feel a sense of betrayal after the Australian Rugby Union axed the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition on Friday.
A decision the ARU claim was due to “financial constraints” yet they paid David Pocock $750,000 for taking a year off, the Melbourne Rebels have by all accounts lost $30million since 2011 and the ARU topped up their coffers by just under $20million, and the Force were funded $5.5million by the ARU since their inception in 2005. Not surprisingly many with basic money management knowledge are saying something does not add up.
President of Rugby WA Hans Sauer summed it up best when he said on Alan Jones show on 2GB that “The pillars upon which Rugby has been founded honesty decency and integrity have been absolutely trashed.”
It came as no surprise that rugby fans at the semi-finals of the Pindan Premier League were not only fuming, but also concerned that this news will open the door for the NRL to expand, and the West Coast Pirates to spring into life. Which in turn will mean that rugby union players will switch to League in order to pursue a career as a professional athlete.
As much as this is a real possibility, despite the Western Reds short stay in the national Rugby League competition, there are more serious signs here for Western Australian teams playing in national competitions.
If rugby union can ignore the values on which the game is built and throw the Western Force aside, what is there to stop our other sporting sides being dropped from national competitions?
In 2015 when Perth Glory were found to have broached the salary cap there was word from within the FFA that they would have happily taken back the A-League licence from owner Tony Sage at that time, but the problem was they had been forced to step in and run two other clubs, and simply could not afford to take such action at that point in time.
Tony Sage has to be fair, since then kept a very low profile. We have not had to endure his bi-seasonal outbursts, and he has stayed quiet; who knows maybe he was warned of the consequences if he continued to harangue the powers that be? Yet credit should be given to Mr Sage as he has hung in there, he has kept Western Australia with a team in the A-League.
In the days of the NSL Perth Glory was the away fixture no team of player wanted to miss. They were the team everyone wanted to beat. The crowd was the best in the country and turned out in their numbers to support their team. The atmosphere was something to behold.
Since the dawn of the A-League the salary cap has disadvantaged Perth Glory, as with a high cost of living and no dispensation for that fact, players have been loathe to make the move from the East to the West. As a result the team has at times suffered. The stadium is now possibly one of the best in the land, certainly the pitch is, but sadly the fans have never managed to recapture the numbers or the atmosphere of days gone by; although there was an upswing in attendance in 2016/17.
So would the FFA drop Perth Glory if Tony Sage walked away? It is unlikely, but it is also a possibility. With all of the A-League clubs wanting a bigger slice of the television pie, it would benefit the FFA financially to cut the trips to and from Perth from their costs. Let us not forget that distance was one of the reasons that Perth was kept out of the NSL for so many years. The Force being axed could be just the stance that gives those in power the courage to make a similar decision.
If not Perth Glory what about other sporting teams in Western Australia? The AFL teams and the Western Warriors cricket teams are bound to be safe as these are two true “Australian sports.” The Wildcats in many people’s eyes are the NBL, without them the competition would be nothing. What about the West Coast Fever, the Perth Heat or the Perth Thunder?
Then there could be events lost to Western Australia, or even programs such as the AIS Hockey relocated over East, as Western Australia no longer dominates the players in the program.
The decision to axe the Force may well be the one move that gives other sports administrators the courage to make an equally bold move, and despite it undermining a national competition, the teams from the West will be tossed aside with the term “Financial constraints.”
Whatever sport you follow every Western Australian should be fighting to save the Western Force. They should be fighting to prove that without Western Australian teams that sport ceases to be a national competition and those who run it a national body.
There is a march organised next weekend which should be supported. There have been suggestions to boycott the upcoming Test match against the Springboks at NIB Stadium on 9th September. Such a move is questionable whether it will not in fact play into the hands of the ARU’s hands and see Western Australia lose international matches completely. A far better suggestion has been that all Wallabies supporters, and as many Springbok fans who want to show solidarity, wear blue to the game. Let us make NIB Stadium a real Sea of Blue. Surely that would send a far better message not only to the ARU but also the country as a whole.
When it comes to sport it has never been more important that Western Australians put their differences aside and stand united as one for Western Australia. Western Australia is part of the nation and our sporting teams deserve to be a part of the national sporting landscape. We must unite as one and fight for the Force not only to try and save the team, but to ensure that no other administrators in their ivory towers in Sydney decide over a chardonnay and a prawn sandwich with the crusts cut off to try and axe another of our sporting teams.