Australian Super Rugby outlook still unclear after emergency general meeting in Sydney
Bill Pulver will remain as Australian Rugby Union chief but the identity of which Australian franchise will be cut from Super Rugby remains a mystery following an emergency general meeting at ARU headquarters in Sydney.
Pulver's position had been under threat after the Victorian Rugby Union and Rugby Union Players' Association called for the meeting after three months of uncertainty for players and staff at the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels.
But while ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said Pulver was not challenged at Tuesday's "orderly" three-hour meeting, he also said the governing body was no closer to announcing whether it will be the Force or Rebels culled as part of SANZAAR's downsizing to a 15-team competition in 2018.
Clyne, though, said it was significant that a resolution to have the ARU reconsider its decision to cut a team had been defeated.
"The majority of members have voted in support of going from five teams to four," he said.
"The motion that did pass was to facilitate a discussion around the establishment of a Super Rugby commission.
"We've had that commission in the past so we're very comfortable to have that discussion and work out as to whether we do establish that in the future."
The ARU announced in April that either the Force or Rebels would go but, with both franchises in legal battles with the governing body, a decision on which franchise is chopped remains no closer.
"We've got teams obviously that are looking to stay in the competition so we can't really control that time frame," Clyne said.
After initially saying a franchise would be cut "within 48 to 72 hours", there now remains the farcical possibility that the 2017 Super Rugby season will be finished in early August but Rebels and Force players still not knowing if their team will be around next year.
"I accept the criticism that it's taken this time," Clyne said.
"(But) had I come out on April the 10th and said 'we are going to exit a team and it's going to take four months', there would be equal criticism."
The ARU, though, maintains committed to removing the Force or Rebels to save an estimated $6 million annually, which will be reinvested in grassroots rugby.
Clyne said there was a "straight correlation" between the declining performances of Australia's Super Rugby teams since, firstly, the introduction of a fourth team, the Force, in 2006 and then a fifth, the Rebels, in 2011.
"One thing we know is if teams are performing, then you engage more fans," he said.
"If you engage more fans, you get more people watching the game, more people going to the game.
"There is a long-term trend to declining participation in the sport and declining crowd attendance and declining people watching sport.
"Now it's an easy to excuse to say it's all happened since April when we announced a team's going (but) these trends have been going for five or six years."
Despite the dire state of Australian rugby, Clyne insisted "there were no discussions of leadership changes or that kind of nature" at Tuesday's crisis meeting.