The cash-strapped Australian Rugby Union have received a financial boost with the sale of the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby franchise to a private investment group.
The ARU, who in April announced losses of $7.07 million for 2014, are expected to save more than $3.366 million a year with the sale.
All of the shares in Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Limited held by the ARU and Victorian Rugby Union will transfer to Imperium Sports Management Pty Ltd on July 1st.
ISM is controlled by Melbourne-based businessmen Andrew Cox and Peter Sidwell, the former chairman of A-League side Melbourne Heart, which is now owned by English Premier League side Manchester City and renamed Melbourne City.
"There are over 125 years of rugby history in this state and the support for the Rebels in just five seasons is extremely encouraging," Cox said in a statement.
"With the expanded Super Rugby competition in 2016, we are looking forward to showcasing Melbourne across the world through new markets including Asia and South America."
Super Rugby will expand to 18 teams next year with sides based in South Africa, Japan and Argentina all joining the competition.
The ARU took over the Rebels from 2013 when a consortium of private investors walked away from the club after burning through A$8 million in three seasons.
The ARU said they spent more than A$5 million in 2013 on the side, who became the fifth Australian Super Rugby franchise in 2011.
They had their most successful season this year, winning seven games and were the third-best Australian team in the southern hemisphere competition, finishing 10th overall.