SYDNEY, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The much-heralded Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) has been scrapped after just one year because of heavy financial losses, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced on Tuesday.
The eight-team tournament, which featured sides from Australia’s mainland states, cost the ARU A$4.7 million (US$4 million) in its first year of operation with no signs of a quick turnaround.
The ARU said it expected to lose another $3.3 million in 2008 so had no alternative other than to ditch the tournament.
“Strong leadership is paramount to the success of our game and, to that end, there are times when tough decisions need to be taken,” ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll said in a statement.
“Continuing with the ARC was considered by the board to be an untenable financial risk for the ARU and rugby as a whole.”
The ARU established the ARC last season as part of a strategy to try to develop more top-class players so that Australia could compete with countries which have fully-fledged professional club competitions.
Carroll said the ARC had already achieved some of its objectives by helping identify new talent and the ARU remained committed to trying to spread the game in Australia.
“While the format of ARC and the stakeholder investment strategy has proven to be flawed, the concept of an affordable high quality rugby competition remains a key strategy,” he said.
The Australian Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) said they were disappointed at the ARU’s decision to disband the competition after just one year.
“We can’t help but feel this decision is premature,” RUPA chief executive Tony Dempsey said.
State officials also expressed their disappointment at the decision but said the financial losses made it hard to stick with.
“The ARC was just what Australian Rugby needed... but I guess it couldn’t go on losing millions of dollars each year,” Western Australia chief executive Peter O’Meara said.
New South Wales chairman Arvid Petersen added: “We are disappointed but fiscally this is the proper decision.”
Editing by Ossian Shine