A timeline of events: How the ARU axed the Force from Super Rugby

Matt Hodgson, centre, celebrates with his Force teammates following their win over the Waratahs last month. Will Russell/Getty Images

The increasingly bitter battle between the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and the Western Force over the Perth franchise's axing from Super Rugby took another turn on Friday.

As part of Super Rugby's plans to streamline the competition from 18 to 15 clubs from 2018, the ARU announced, as expected, that the Force would be the Australian side to lose its licence.

That decision, following a lengthy arbitration between the two parties, was met with criticism from the Force while ARU chief executive Bill Pulver added to a messy day by announcing his intention to step down once a successor has been found.

With so much going on, ESPN looks at the timeline of events to see how Australian rugby has ended up here.

April 9

SANZAAR announce that from 2018 Super Rugby will consist of 15 teams, with two South African and one Australian side culled.

Andy Marinos, SANZAAR CEO, reveals that the governing body "haven't been prescriptive on a deadline."

An emotional Matt Hodgson calls the decision "short-sighted" as it is reported that the Force is the Australian franchise in line for the chop.

April 10

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne announces that the decision on which Australian franchise will be axed will be made in the next "48 to 72 hours."

RugbyWA, the governing body for Western Australia, issues legal proceedings on the ARU saying it had "failed to address the responsibilities that exist in the Alliance Agreement."

April 11

Clyne backtracks on his earlier timeline as he gives the Force a stay of execution, allowing them and the Rebels more time to state their case to remain in Super Rugby.

No new timeframe is offered by the ARU chairman.

May 2

The Western Australia Government wades into the argument as it criticises the ARU.

WA Minister for Sport and Recreation Mick Murray praised rugby league for expanding its game, while stating that it was "disappointing" that union was shrinking.

May 19

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau makes a passionate plea for Super Rugby to remain in Western Australia.

"You actually need WA for the game to grow," he told AAP.

"I'm just proud of what they've done -- especially in the community -- to grow the game over here."

May 23

Force veteran Hodgson suggests that the uncertainty over the future of the franchise has affected the mental health of some of his teammates.

May 29

Clyne refuses to rule out a scenario in which all five Australian franchises compete in the 2018 Super Rugby season.

The ARU lifts its moratorium on Super Rugby player contracts and promises to honour all deals -- even those signed with clubs subsequently axed.

July 7

SA Rugby confirm that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will lose their places in Super Rugby from 2018.

The two franchises state their desire to look for "other international competition opportunities," before signing with the PRO14 on Aug. 1.

The Force beat the Rebels 31-22 in a match dubbed the 'Battle of the Axe'.

July 15

Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest enters the fray in the role of the Force's potential saviour.

He pledges to do all he can to keep the franchise from being axed.

July 30

Forrest urges the ARU to merge the Rebels with the ACT Brumbies, a move that would save the Force.

"From the planet Mars an obvious solution ... would be to put the Brumbies together with the Rebels," he said.

July 31

Forrest claims he will pour millions of dollars into the 'Own the Force' campaign, if they survive the chop.

Aug. 7

With the saga still dragging on and no word from the ARU, Forrest issues a warning to the governing body.

"You try to cut the Western Force, you have to go through me first, and then all of our players, and then our supporters, and then all of the parents of young players and, indeed, all proud Western Australians," he said.

Aug. 11

The ARU finally ends months of speculation by confirming that the Force will be the team to make way from Super Rugby.

"This has been a complex process to reduce Australia's Super Rugby representation to four teams as agreed by SANZAAR following its review of the competition," ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said via a press release.

However, the decision is panned on social media, and hours later ARU supremo Pulver announces his intention to step down from his post.