Proposed Reds, Waratahs and Rebels merger to tackle rival codes

Queensland powerbroker Jim Carmichael believes an ambitious proposed merger between the Reds, Waratahs and Rebels could help rugby take the fight to rival sporting codes in Australia.

Carmichael, the chief executive of the Queensland Rugby Union, who is a key player in the proposed plan, insists the move would not be a takeover but the creation of a corporate entity big enough to claw back some of the territory rugby has ceded to the NRL and AFL in the past decade.

He believes the body, under the working title Rugby Australia, would combine all the assets owned by the provinces.

"It is not a takeover, and if it was, I would not touch it," Carmichael said. "It's about getting the best . . . in the industry together and building something better.

"It is a complete look at how rugby, an international game with wonderful advantages, positions itself and all the assets of the game to be highly competitive against all sports nationally, because that's where we have to be operating."

Rugby administrators throughout the country have mixed feelings about the project, which was drawn up at Christmas and could be presented to the ARU board before the end of the month.

The Force and the Brumbies are staying outside the tent by mutual choice. The Force believe their distance from the three provinces does not make a merger practical at this stage, while the Brumbies are viewed as stable enough on their own to not require the comfort or oversight of their east-coast siblings.

Waratahs Rugby is open to the idea. Chief executive Jason Allen said the proposal had not been put to the Waratahs board, but the province was "deeply engaged" in discussions.

The NSW Rugby Union, which handed the licence to run the Super Rugby team to Waratahs Rugby for five years on a $1.1 million-a-year deal, would not be directly affected by the merger.

But NSWRU chairman Nick Farr-Jones gave the concept in-principle support, calling it progress in a game that needed to make some.

"I personally think it's not a bad thing; I am supportive of anything to keep or make the game sustainable," Farr-Jones said.

"It is not as big a deal as it looks; the states will retain their assets, their own board and their control through a managing director."

While the concept is sill in its early stages, it is not clear why Queensland – commercially the most successful of the five Australian provinces – wants to throw its lot in with the Waratahs and Rebels.

But Carmichael believes a well-run over-arching body has the potential to maximise the individual strengths, or in the case of Melbourne, the potential strengths, of all three.

"We have an opportunity to build a significant advantage for rugby," he said.

"It needs an enormous amount of work to convince stakeholders is it the right way to go and then [the new entity] needs to perform, but we have a wonderful game with advantages that have not been capitalised upon."

Despite the Rebels' difficult infancy, the Melbourne market is seen as a key strategic foothold.

Likewise, the Waratahs have been under-performing in rugby's heartland. Carmichael believes the merger could turn this around.

"The Waratahs is an iconic brand that is probably not structured right at the moment," he said.

"It is a very tough market. We need to make sure they can take advantage and react to opportunity."

The story Proposed Reds, Waratahs and Rebels merger to tackle rival codes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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