Melbourne Rebels to be shut down as Rugby Australia reject bid to keep them alive

Rugby Australia has rejected a consortium’s bid to take over the Melbourne Rebels. Going to court is the only possible way to save the ailing club, which is set to close after 14 seasons.

The news was communicated to staff and players on Thursday morning as the club prepares for its first appearance in the Super Rugby final.

The rebels had been in receivership since January of this year and were in debt of over $23 million.

A consortium led by business heavyweight Leigh Clifford presented a plan to finance the club until 2030. This plan envisages the return of the license by RA and the commitment of financing.

However, RA said the identities of the consortium members were not disclosed, their credentials could not be fully verified and the lack of details provided created an “unacceptable risk”, hence the decision to close the club.

“RA does not take this decision lightly but must act in the best interests of the game and its stakeholders and provide certainty to Rebels players and staff and all Super Rugby clubs as they plan for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season,” the governing body said in a statement.

“Given the lack of detail provided to the RA, the lack of transparency and the significant doubts raised about the Consortium’s proposed financial model, the RA has concluded that there is an unacceptable level of risk associated with entering into a participation agreement with this Consortium for the 2025 Super Rugby Pacific season.”

RA CEO Phil Waugh said the club remained committed to having a strong rugby presence in Victoria and would now focus on “supporting the affected Rebels staff and players”.

“The fact that the players, coaches, team management and support staff have managed to deliver such a competitive season on the field under extremely difficult circumstances is testament to what they have achieved – and we look forward to seeing the team fight in the final for the first time ever,” said Waugh.

“I would like to thank the rugby community for their patience and continued support of the Code. Rugby Australia is currently focused on supporting the affected Rebels staff and players.

“We have a plan in place to ensure a strong future for rugby in Victoria – the infrastructure and systems will remain the same despite the transition to professional sport in 2025 and we will continue to look for ways to increase that investment in sport in Victoria.

“As Australian rugby evolves, we will consider the professional footprint of the game and consider how that best serves the game and Super Rugby.

“We will continue to work closely with the Victorian Government and Visit Victoria in planning future major events and look forward to the Wallabies taking on Wales at AAMI Park in July.

“RA is exploring options for the 2025 British & Irish Lions Tour match to be held at Marvel Stadium on 22 July 2025 and is working with the Lions to ensure the successful delivery of this event.”

The decision leaves players in limbo as RA and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) are still discussing options for player movements within Australian rugby.

Players who were under contract with the Rebels until the end of 2025, including Wallabies star Taniela Tupou, have the opportunity to play overseas due to their now void contracts.

The Rebels will play their last regular season game against Fijian Drua on Saturday in Fiji.

Read related topics:Melbourne

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