Quade Cooper of the Rebels catches ball tackled by Hyron Andrews of the Sharks during the 2019 Super Rugby match between the Sharks and Rebels at Kings Park in March.Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

SYDNEY – Rugby Australia acknowledged Friday the Melbourne Rebels were struggling financially, but the Super Rugby franchise denied it was considering a merger with the ACT Brumbies.

The Australian newspaper reported matters were so bad that the Rebels could face difficulties if they had to host a home final in the southern hemisphere competition.

Under this scenario, they would have to pay the visiting team a flat rate fee before pocketing any additional returns, and with poor crowds that could spell a loss.

“The Rebels have had a challenging year financially and Rugby Australia is working closely alongside them to address their challenges,” an RA spokesperson said. 

“The Rebels have not requested additional financial support from Rugby Australia.”

Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson admitted “there is no doubt that things are becoming increasingly fairly tight”, reportedly after problems with a sponsorship deal.

“We are confident of what we have in the short-term. The longer-term, post-2021, no one can crystal ball that,” he told the newspaper.

The Rebels were close to being culled from Super Rugby when governing body SANZAAR decided to reduce it from an 18-team model to 15 for the 2018 season.

They survived, with Perth-based Western Force the Australian franchise that eventually got the chop.

At the time, there was talk of the Rebels merging with the Brumbies to make them more viable, but Stephenson denied this was on the table again.

“I don't think either club is thinking that way,” Stephenson said. “I can't see any long-term mergers or changes.”

Agence France-Presse (AFP)