Former RugbyWA chairman lashes out after quitting ARU board over Force axe

Former RugbyWA chairman Geoff Stooke has expressed his fury at the decision to axe Western Force from Super Rugby and announced his resignation from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) board.

The ARU on Friday announced a resolution to discontinue the Force's licence, four months after SANZAAR revealed that Super Rugby would be reduced from 18 to 15 teams.

RugbyWA could open New South Wales Supreme Court proceedings in a bid to save the Perth-based franchise, who join South Africa sides Cheetahs and Southern Kings in being booted out of the competition.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver declared his intention to quit following Friday's announcement and Stooke, the only board member who voted against removing an Australian team from Super Rugby, let his feelings be known after he also stepped down.

He said in a lengthy statement: "I didn't participate in this decision, as over the past two months I had been recused from all board meetings, teleconferences and discussions on the Super Rugby 'culling' process.

"Yesterday I advised that I would no longer recuse myself but the chairman believed I couldn't do that and agreed to provide me legal advice supporting his opinion. It was never forthcoming.

"Over the five and a half years I have been on the board, there have been times when I have had very different views on issues to those of some of my fellow board members and those of management.

"However, I always believed it was better that I be 'inside the tent' rather than offering commentary from 'outside the tent'. Importantly, whilst I expressed my views within the board, once decisions were taken I then supported them privately and publicly. As was my fiduciary responsibility!

"Recent events have been difficult for me and I have fought strongly to retain five Super Rugby teams, to honour various commitments to players, fans, governments, sponsors and others, to maintain a national footprint for our game and to avoid possible expensive and brand-damaging legal actions.

"It was not simply me trying to save the Western Force because of my previous association with that team. I strongly believe it is not strategically sound to remove a team, particularly given recent positive financial initiatives with the two 'at risk' teams.

"Sadly, I lost the battle and I was the only dissenting vote on the board earlier in the year when the board resolved to remove a team."

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