31 Dec 2009

ARU confident new franchise can stand alone

5:35 am on 31 December 2009

The Australian Rugby Union is confident it won't have to resort to appointing a project manager to set up the new Melbourne franchise, and is hopeful private owners will take full control next month.

Two potential investors, Craig Dunn and Ray Evans from the VicSuper15 group, have walked away after failing to reach a financial agreement with the ARU over the Melbourne entity, which will join the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2011.

However ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll says negotiations were continuing with the other prospective owners, including media buyer Harold Mitchell and Sydney-based mining magnate Kevin Maloney.

With decisions on staffing up to the owners, Carroll hopes the franchise will have a head coach and chief executive in place within weeks of the hand-over.

The move to get a Melbourne-based team in the expanding competition has been beset by acrimony and in-fighting from the outset of the bid process.

Carroll says if the remaining ownership issues couldn't be resolved early in the new year, an ARU project manager would be appointed.