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Rebels say no Super Rugby deal with ARU

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/05/2017 Melissa Woods

The Melbourne Rebels are safe - for now - with negotiations for a sale deal between owner Andrew Cox and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) off the table.

The ARU is still intent on axing the Rebels or the Western Force with the Super Rugby competition downsized next year to 15 teams.

But any plans for the ARU to buy the licence, held by Cox and his Imperium Group, and terminate the club are no longer up for discussion.

The Rebels issued a statement on Friday night saying they wouldn't engage in negotiations with the ARU in "relation to the sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence".

The Melbourne franchise repeated their call from last month for the ARU to publicly confirm it legally had no right to remove them from the Super Rugby competition.

"The Melbourne Rebels wish to reiterate its clear legal position that the ARU has no legal right to "cut" them as a team in the Super Rugby competition," the club said in a statement.

"The ARU must come out and publicly put an end to the speculation.

"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, neither the Melbourne Rebels nor its owners will engage with the ARU in relation to the sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence."

The offer was reportedly around $6 million, although the ARU has been under pressure from the Victorian Rugby Union (VRU), Victorian government and Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) to withdraw it.

The boards of the VRU and RUPA, which include Test captain Stephen Moore, this week voted to force the ARU's board into a special general meeting.

A date is yet to be set for this meeting, as well as time for an "informal discussion" about the Super Rugby saga between all parties within the coming week.

Cox's future with the Rebels remains uncertain with former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom still hopeful of securing a deal to buy the franchise.

Elsom is part of a group of private investors, interested in securing the future of the Rebels.

Despite Cox denying this week he has had negotiations with Elsom, the ex-player has signed a confidentiality agreement which signals otherwise.

Elsom has checked out Melbourne's books and is believed to see plenty of upside in the franchise.

He also doesn't want to see the Force fold, saying five Australian teams are not only viable but necessary for the success of Australian rugby.

"I'm under a confidentiality agreement so I'm limited in what I can say," Elsom said.

By selling the franchise to Elsom, Cox would have honoured his commitment to the Melbourne players and staff that he wouldn't sell for the club to be axed.

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