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Western Force offer fans shares in club

NZN 23/03/2017 Justin Chadwick

The Western Force want to prove to the ARU and SANZAAR that it would be a $10 million mistake to get rid of them - but first they need fans to put their money where their mouth is.

The Force officially launched the 'Own the Force' prospectus on Thursday, giving fans the opportunity to buy a share of the Perth-based franchise.

In an Australian first, the club's #owntheforce campaign is offering the public 10,000 A Class Shares for an investment of $1,000 each via a public listed company - Western Force Owners Limited.

The Force need to sell a minimum of 5,000 shares over the next four months for the new ownership model to go ahead.

If the Force can raise the minimum of $5 million needed, it would give them enough funds to buy back the franchise from the ARU, who took ownership last year.

The Force have launched the ambitious plan to prove to the ARU that they shouldn't be axed.

If SANZAAR reduce the number of teams in the competition, it's almost certain one of the Australian franchises will be axed - with the Force, Rebels and Brumbies in the crosshairs.

RugbyWA chairman Tony Howarth is optimistic the share program will raise somewhere between $5 million to $10 million for the Force.

And the franchise's position has also been boosted by a four-year, $6 million sponsorship deal with the WA Road Safety Commission.

It means the Force will have up to $10 million worth of reasons for the ARU not to axe them if their 'Own the Force' campaign is successful.

"If the ARU decides the Force will be closed down, that's $5 million to $10 million worth of new money in Australian rugby (that will be lost)," Howarth said.

"It would be an interesting conversation as to why the ARU might not want that."

Howarth says almost 5,000 people have already expressed their interest in buying a share over recent months.

At least one person has even committed to buying 10 shares at a total cost of $10,000.

No definitive timeline has been set on SANZAAR and the ARU to make any decisions about possible franchise axings.

It means Force fans are being asked to put money forward for a share without knowing whether their team will get the axe or not.

But Howarth assured fans that if the team does get axed, all money will be refunded on purchased shares.

Force skipper Ben McCalman said he and the rest of the player group had committed to buying shares.

Application forms are expected to be released next week.

Howarth concedes the Force have been run on "life support" for the majority of their existence.

But he hopes the new ownership model will help turn the franchise into a powerhouse, both on and off the field.

HOW IT WORKS

*10,000 A Class Shares are on offer for an investment of $1,000 each via a public listed company - Western Force Owners Limited.

*Each share is payable over a period of twelve months.

*Unlike stocks or shares, the certificates would not be transferable, except to family members.

*Owners would be entitled to benefits like voting rights to the Force's board of management, approval of the reappointment of key positions within the Force, input into match day and team activities, and discounts on Force memberships and RugbyWA player registration fees.

*The #owntheforce model is based on community ownership principals, which have been put in place at FC Barcelona soccer club and NFL outfit Green Bay Packers.

*The Prospectus can be downloaded at www.owntheforce.com.au.

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