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Brumbies may need to find a new home


By James MacSmith
Sunday, April 30, 2006

Australia's most successful province, the Brumbies, might have to move to Melbourne or the NSW Central Coast within five years to ensure the franchise's future.

Judging by the scale of Matt Giteau's $1.5 million-a-year deal with the Western Force, the two-time Super 12 champions could struggle to be financially competitive if third-party agreements become the norm in provincial rugby and player salaries skyrocket.

Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan says his organisation is unlikely to be able to match the size of corporate backing the Waratahs, the Reds and the Force enjoy if third-party top-ups from the corporate sector become an acceptable part of player payments.

Fagan has called on the ARU to investigate the Western Force's three-year deal with Giteau and look into the regulation of player contracts.

But Rugby Union Players Association chief executive Tony Dempsey said third-party contracts were here to stay and the ACT-based Brumbies would struggle to compete for top-line talent.

"A move to Melbourne was something that was mooted by [former ARU boss] John O'Neill," he said.

"In the short term I don't think it will happen, but who knows what will happen in five to 10 years?

"We have to be careful to ensure the future financial security of our provinces.

"At the moment there is no sign of financial distress but if that changes we have to consider all possibilities."

Fagan said he would ask the ARU to look into the Giteau deal and consider the implications it may have on the financial prosperity of Australia's Super 14 teams.

"At the moment we have corporate support that is the equal of the Waratahs and the Reds," Fagan said. "But if third-party agreements become an acceptable part of the playing field, and the private sector is allowed to contribute to player payments, we will struggle to compete with the other Super 14 sides.

"Their additional corporate support is significantly more advanced than ours is."

ARU boss Gary Flowers says third-party agreements have the potential to "distort" the systems the unions have put in place.

"The teams with the money will be able to attract marquee players which, in the medium term, could lead to situations where there are two categories of teams - the haves and the have-nots," he said.

"That would not be a good outcome for Australian rugby."

The Brumbies have been Australia's most successful provincial team over the past decade but Fagan fears the two-time Super 12 champions could struggle if the way players' negotiations are conducted has been changed forever by the Giteau deal.

"We need a firm, fixed system of negotiation that is in the best interest of the four organisations," he said. "That is something I will be bringing up at the CEOs meeting on May 8.

"We have great community and government support in Canberra and if it remains we would always prefer to stay but the financial future of the organisation is paramount."

Melbourne and the Central Coast could emerge as a new home for the Brumbies if Australia begins to follow the US model. In the US, football franchises move cities depending on where they find the most sound financial base.

The Brumbies have been involved in talks with the Victorian Rugby Union about strengthening ties between the two organisations, and the Brumbies are likely to play a home game in Melbourne. The city narrowly missed out on winning the fourth Super 14 franchise to Perth.

Rugby has strong corporate support in Melbourne and VRU boss Ron Steiner said that support had not been discouraged by the city's failure to secure a Super 14 team. "There is very, very strong corporate support for the game in Melbourne and at the development level the game is as sound as it has ever been," he said.

"We have forged a good relationship with the Brumbies and want them to be successful on and off the park.

"All we can do is ensure we put ourselves in the best position to deal with any eventualities. Whether that is a team moving to Melbourne or a fifth [Australian] team, we have to ensure we are ready."

Millionaire adman John Singleton, who failed in a bid to have the NRL's 16th team call the Central Coast home in 2007, leases Central Coast Stadium and is involved with club rugby side the Waves. He said he would welcome the Brumbies if they considered a move north. "The Brumbies would have a lot more going for them on the Central Coast than in Canberra," he said. "If it was in their best interests to call the Central Coast Stadium home it is something we would be interested in.

"I just don't understand why they have a Super 14 team in Canberra. I don't know why rugby league has one there either.

"I can't see how they can compete for the corporate dollar there - it's full of public servants. They would be better off having a team elsewhere."

Flowers doesn't see a future in which franchises move to where the best backing is - not yet, anyway.

"That is not something we have entertained at this stage," he said. "We want teams that are owned by the member unions and the ARU."
 

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the Brumbies wont be moving for a few years yet thats for sure. Then by then AUstralia might even have its 5th super14 team
 
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