Rugby Australia (RA), the country’s governing body for rugby union, has taken control of the Melbourne Rebels after that team's collapse into administration just weeks before the start of the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific season.

The side formally entered voluntary administration on Monday (January 29) after struggling with long-standing financial issues, facing debts exceeding AU$10 million ($6.61 million).

Confirming it would take over day to day running of the club, RA said it would work with the appointed administrator to ensure the Rebels men’s and women’s teams' participation in the upcoming Super Rugby competitions would not be affected.

The men’s team is scheduled to kick off their season with a home match against ACT Brumbies on February 23. The women’s team, meanwhile, will start its 2024 campaign with an away match against Western Force on March 15.

RA chief executive Phil Waugh said: “RA is committed to ensuring the Melbourne Rebels play in the 2024 Super Rugby competitions, and we will support their preparation for the new season.

“As custodians of the game, we are determined to ensure that RA is making responsible decisions for a sustainable and successful future – we will work with the Rebels and the relevant stakeholders to that end.”

Waugh added that the Victorian government would be involved in talks over the future of the club, commenting: “The Victorian government has been a long-standing and significant supporter of professional and community rugby.

“Our focus is to work with the Victorian government and its key agencies … to ensure the Rebels participation in the 2024 Super Rugby season and the continuation of professional rugby in the state.”

Since joining Super Rugby in 2011, the Rebels have struggled to maintain a strong presence, given the city’s focus on Australian Rules football. The highest they have placed is third during the 2020 Covid-19-affected season when the competition was limited to only domestic teams.

The 2023 season saw the team finish 11th in the 12-team Super Rugby Pacific competition.

This is the second time RA has stepped in to manage the Rebels, having done so from 2013 to 2015 before the club returned to private ownership.

The Victorian Government has also previously provided funding to the struggling franchise in exchange for hosting the Bledisloe Cup and British and Irish Lions Test matches in Melbourne.