Super Rugby

Melbourne Rebels ‘enter voluntary administration’ on eve of new season

In a desperate bid for survival amid crippling debt, the Melbourne Rebels have entered voluntary administration, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

It is believed the Super Rugby club owe in the region of $9 million and have brought in Wexted Advisors to try and alleviate their insolvency problems.

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A large portion of the Rebels’ debt is owed to the Australian Taxation Office, with $1m due in fees for the use of AAMI Park Stadium, which is managed by the state government’s Melbourne & Olympics Parks Trust.

The Rebels have previously received financial aid from the state government in 2017. As part of the $20m deal with Rugby Australia for the Bledisloe Cup and 2025 British & Irish Lions Tour over a period between eight and ten years, the Melbourne club were to be retained in the Super Rugby competition.

However, Rugby Australia has given no assurances that their financial support of Melbourne will extend beyond this season, putting the club at risk of folding.

Specifically, Rugby Australia said a long-term decision on the matter would be based around whether or not the Rebels were “contributing to a sustainable future”.

A Rugby Australia spokesperson said: “RA and the Rebels are currently awaiting a report from the Rebels’ financial advisors. Following the receipt of this report RA will evaluate the best, and most appropriate course of action.

“RA is committed to exploring ways to build long-term viability for the professional game in Victoria. Any future decisions need to ensure the Rebels are contributing to a sustainable future for the game, and we want to see Melbourne as part of that future.”

The news also calls into question the suitability of Victoria as a venue for the 2027 Rugby World Cup final, and World Rugby chief Alan Gilpin was asked if Melbourne was still being considered.

“It is, because it is a great sporting destination, a great host city,” he said. “They are spoiled for wonderful facilities in Melbourne, as are Sydney and many parts of Australia.

“We know Super Rugby clubs have had challenges and we know Rugby Australia are trying to address that, and we want to support that in any way we can.

“We are obviously a stakeholder and an investor in Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika and are very interested in the success of Super Rugby more generally, as a platform for the sport to thrive in this part of the world.

“But World Cup hosting is disassociated to that, essentially.”

The new Super Rugby season is set to get under way on February 23, with the Rebels to begin their campaign against the ACT Brumbies as they bid to improve on their 11th-place finish last year.

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