MELBOURNE The Melbourne Rebels would not engage in any discussions with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) on any potential sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence, the club's owners said on Friday.
The Rebels, whose licence is held by a private company Imperium Sports Management (ISM) and run through the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union (MRRU), have been identified by the ARU as being under review after governing body SANZAAR said it would reduce Super Rugby by three teams next season.
Two teams from South Africa and one from Australia, which the ARU have already said would be either the Rebels or Perth-based Western Force, would be axed from the competition against a backdrop of falling revenues and fan interest after the expansion to 18 teams last year.
The Force have already launched legal action against the ARU.
The Rebels, who issued a statement last month they would be seeking compensation from the ARU, added on Friday they would now not even engage with the governing body on their licence.
"The Melbourne Rebels wish to reiterate its clear legal position that the ARU has no legal right to cut them as a team in the Super Rugby Competition," MRRU said in a statement.
"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, neither the Melbourne Rebels nor its owners will engage with the ARU in relation to the sale or cancellation of its Super Rugby licence."
The Rebels also criticised the silence from the ARU, repeating complaints from the team's assistant coach Morgan Turinui earlier this week when he said the constant speculation was putting added pressure on their players.
The club added the silence was now also affecting their planning for 2018.
"We are now five weeks further into the 2017 season with no statement from the ARU. The ongoing speculation concerning our future has tested the resolve of the club, our sponsors, our members and our fans," the team said.
"The ARU actions are not only impacting our 2017 season, they are now impacting our 2018 season."
The Rebels, who have won just one of their 10 games this season, play the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)