RUGBY

Rebels to transfer Super licence

Melbourne have confirmed the transfer of their Super Rugby licence from the club's private owners into the hands of the Victorian Rugby Union, ensuring the Rebels' future in the competition.

The Rebels and Western Force have been on the Australian Rugby Union's chopping block after a SANZAAR agreement in April to cut an Australian team in a downsized Super Rugby competition from 2018.

Andrew Cox's Imperium Sports Group transferred the licence and all shares in the club to the VRU for $1 on Friday, in a move which stops the ARU from buying back the Rebels and shutting them down.

The Victorian government is expected to this week announce its involvement in the deal, which includes hosting Bledisloe Cups in return for Rebels funding.

That means the ARU will be hanging on the outcome of arbitration case with WA Rugby, with a decision expected this week, in order to fulfill its SANZAAR deal.

The ARU claimed to have been blindsided by the Rebels when news leaked of the ownership transfer on Friday night, however, Melbourne sources said the club tried twice that day to make contact.

The Rebels also denied that the ARU had to sign off on any transfer, with VRU president Tim North, who is a QC, as well as two other QCs advising the put option in a 2015 agreement signed by the ARU was sufficient.

The transfer means Cox kept his mid-season promise to Rebels players and staff that he wouldn't sell the licence if it meant the club would be shut down, effectively turning his back on a lucrative offer from the ARU.

'After two rewarding, productive, and at times challenging seasons, Imperium Sports Management is pleased to hand over control of the Melbourne Rebels to ensure their future is in the hands of the Victorian Rugby community,' Cox said in a statement on Sunday.

'We are pleased that this secures the future of the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne.

'The team at Imperium will remain passionate Rebels fans and we look forward to celebrating much success in the future.'

The ARU said it has no comment at this stage.

AAP