SYDNEY - The ownership saga surrounding the fifth Australian Super Rugby team has finally been resolved, with the Australian Rugby Union handing control of the franchise to the Melbourne Rebels consortium.
An agreement was announced today between the ARU and the group headed by business identity Harold Mitchell.
Melbourne will join an expanded 15-team Super competition next year, when Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will all field five teams.
The Melbourne franchise will be based at the new 31,000-capacity rectangular stadium nearing completion in the city's sporting precinct.
Tuesday's announcement brought to an end several months of uncertainty about which interested parties would be involved in the Melbourne franchise, which will receive some loan funding from the ARU.
"Inevitably, these things take a while, but I wouldn't say it's been tortuous, I think it's been challenging," ARU chief executive John O'Neill told reporter today.
"But the outcome we've reached with Harold and his team is a good one for rugby, a good one for the ARU and a good one for rugby in Melbourne."
O'Neill said the ownership structure of the Melbourne franchise met the criteria set out by the ARU along with the funding arrangement and capital requirements.
O'Neill said the Victorian Rugby Union was not an equity partner in the Melbourne franchise, but described it as "a stakeholder".
He said the ARU would have no more say in the running of the Melbourne team than it had in any of the existing Australian Super franchises.
Mitchell politely declined to disclose any details about pending major appointments including a coach and a chief executive.
"We are not too far away, of course we have been doing plenty of work, but I'm not about to announce it this morning," Mitchell told reporters.
The ARU on Monday announced the Melbourne franchise would be allowed to recruit up to 10 foreign players in its formative years.