Senate inquiry a concern for sport: ARU

Warren Barnsley
Chairman Cameron Clyne has had to defend the ARU over its handling of the Force axing

The Australian Rugby Union has voiced concern over federal government interference after its decision to axe the Western Force from Super Rugby.

Parliament will investigate the decision and the future of Australian rugby union after West Australian Liberal senator Linda Reynolds successfully moved for a Senate inquiry.

The ARU is under scrutiny over its process to cut one franchise from the SANZAAR competition, with RugbyWA losing a battle in the NSW Supreme Court this week to retain the Force.

Reynolds was critical of the governing body's decision-making process, claiming lack of transparency.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne expressed surprise at the inquiry and said it represented a change of position by the government.

"To-date the ARU has enjoyed a productive working relationship with the federal government," Clyne said in a statement on Thursday.

"Throughout, the government has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to interfere with the way in which sports operate and make decisions.

"But it appears this stance has now changed. This is a concern for the entire industry."

Clyne backed the integrity of his organisation's decision making and said Minister for Sport Greg Hunt was briefed throughout the process and information is now available to the public.

"We have acknowledged that we have been limited in the level of information we could provide publicly on the Super Rugby process while we were subject to court action commenced by RugbyWA," Clyne said.

The Community Affairs References Committee will put rugby union under the microscope and report by November 13.

The inquiry will look at ARU board deliberations leading to the decision to reduce teams from five to four and whether there continues to be a truly national rugby footprint in Australia.

The WA government has also threatened to sue the ARU for more than $100 million over the decision to remove the Force.