On 11 August 2017, the Board of Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced that it would discontinue the Super Rugby licence for the Western Force. The decision prompted outrage among rugby union fans who believed that the process the ARU used to arrive at that decision was flawed.
Eliminating one Australian team from the international competition also saw broader concerns raised around the governance and financial sustainability of rugby union in Australia and the ARU as custodians of the game.
On 6 September 2017 the Senate referred the future of rugby union in Australia to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 13 November 2017 with the following terms of reference:
The future of rugby union in Australia, with particular reference to:
a) the Australian Rugby Union Board deliberation leading up to the decision to reduce Australian rugby teams from five to four in the national competition;
b) whether there continues to be a truly national rugby union footprint in Australia;
c) the role of national and state-based bodies in encouraging greater national participation in rugby union;
d) the corporate governance arrangements and composition of national and state-based rugby union bodies, including community representation on those bodies;
e) the impact of the decision to reduce the number of Australian teams on national participation in rugby union; and
f) any other related matters.