Tupuo
The contract of Wallaby Taniela Tupou will be honoured by the financially stricken Melbourne Rebels. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby union

Rebels admin axed, Super Rugby club’s future dim


February 14, 2024

Melbourne’s hopes of surviving beyond the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season have been dealt a hammer blow with administrative staff and chief executive Baden Stephenson axed by the financially stricken club.

High-performance staff, including head coach Kevin Foote and general manager of football Nick Stiles, have also been been put on four-month Rugby Australia contracts to see out the season.

Foote
 Melbourne Rebels head coach Kevin Foote has been placed on a four-month contract. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

The contracts of high-profile recruit and star Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou, as well as the other players, remain valid given they are tied to Rugby Australia.

The Rebels went into voluntary administration earlier this month with debts reportedly exceeding $9 million.

But administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers discovered the situation was much worse than initially feared with the total debt reportedly closer to $20 million, and began terminating employees on Tuesday.

“I’m fine, but I really feel for the staff,” Stephenson, chief executive of the Rebels since 2017, told AAP.

“The reaction and character of players and staff makes me proud of the calibre of people at the Rebels.”

Waugh
 RA boss Phil Waugh sidestepped questions when asked about the Melbourne Rebels’ predicament. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh sidestepped questions of the Rebels at Wednesday’s competition launch in Auckland.

But Super Rugby Pacific chairman Kevin Malloy indicated the Rebels’ plight had fast-tracked a review of the competition initially slated for 2026.

“Logically 2026 has been the time frame with media rights cycles and that sort of thing … so (that’s when) we would think about if there would be any material change in the competition,” he told reporters.

“Clearly what’s happened with the Rebels has just brought that conversation forward slightly.

“There’s always going to be a review on how it accelerated to the point it’s at.”

The club’s trial game against Fijian Drua on Friday is set to go ahead while all teams will gather in Melbourne for Super Round for six games between March 1-3.