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Australia
Australian clubs facing financial meltdown
ESPN Staff
January 31, 2014

The Waratahs are not the only Super Rugby team with money woes, with Melbourne Rebels and Western Force also battling financial instability.

Waratahs chief executive Jason Allen told The Australian the Sydney club's finances were unsustainable and that poor crowd attendances this season "could send them to the wall". Allen said the franchise was "50% worse off" than at the corresponding period last year, mainly because of the loss of HSBC as full naming-rights sponsor.

Western Force are also facing ongoing revenue shortages after finishing 13th last year, one spot behind the Rebels. Making matters worse, the Force have lost major sponsor Emirates, leaving a Aus$1 million black hole in their budget.

They are desperately flogging player-by-player sponsorships, with companies offered the chance to have their logo on the front of an individual jumper for the entire season for Aus$50,000.

The Rebels have managed to retain their naming rights sponsor Rabo Bank, but chief executive Rob Clarke admitted the Victorian club's fiscal security was not much better. "I think it is widely known that we've got our challenges here financially," he told SEN.

Clarke said on-field success was the only way for the Rebels to strengthen their long-term future. "[Winning] doesn't automatically link to financial success. But without it you certainly will fail financially. Particularly in this cluttered sporting market here [Melbourne], a winning team is essential," he said.

The Rebels have received funding assistance from the Australian Rugby Uinon since they were founded in 2010, and Clarke said that was money well spent. "You can't grow the game nationally without having a strong presence in the biggest sporting market - and that is here in Melbourne. The ARU have been fantastic supporters in making sure that the Rebels are alive and well and have a long-term plan. Strategically it is critical that the Rebels are here and have a bright future."

The Rebels play under new coach Tony McGahan for the first time against the Waratahs this Saturday in a practice match in Albury. The temperature is expected to reach 41C, but both clubs are hoping up to 8000 fans turn out at the border town.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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