Monday 24 October 2016

New Zealand rugby chief admits mistake in handling of stripper scandal

Published 09/09/2016 | 10:34

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew acknowledged on Friday they should have involved people from outside their organisation to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Waikato Chiefs players towards a stripper.

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NZR issued a warning to the entire Super Rugby team on Wednesday following the release of their investigation into an alleged incident that occurred last month at the team's end-of-season 'Mad Monday' celebrations.

They also said they were unable to verify any of the allegations made by the woman, identified as "Scarlette" by New Zealand media, though it had left "a black mark" on the sport and the two-time Super Rugby champion Chiefs.

Since the release of the report, however, Tew's organisation has been heavily criticised for their handling of the incident and a lack of transparency, while it has raised debate on how women are treated by sports teams in the country.

Tew said on Friday he stood by the report, which was conducted by their general counsel Keith Binnie, and was adamant it was the "truth of the situation".

"We got to the truth of what happened around the Chiefs 2016 event," Tew told reporters at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, where the All Blacks are preparing to play Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

"In the benefit of hindsight it might have been better for us if we got someone to work with him, who could have brought an outside perspective to it and given it that legitimacy.

"I still stand by the work he did. He's a very careful person and he came back with a very clear set of findings that are consistent with everyone who was spoken to."

Scarlette declined to make a complaint to police and on Friday told New Zealand media through a lawyer that she would not be asking for them to re-examine the incident.

It has, however, created a maelstrom in rugby-mad New Zealand, with the Chiefs losing two sponsors, the All Blacks test being drawn into the controversy while Prime Minister John Key rebuked the behaviour that led to the allegations.

Several prominent New Zealand women were also signatories to an open letter from the Human Rights Commission to NZR on Thursday asking them to change the culture of rugby.

"Right now, thousands of New Zealanders are questioning the culture of our country's favourite sport and those in charge to do better," the letter read.

"As much as New Zealanders love rugby - we need New Zealanders to respect women."

NZR said in response to the letter they "had not got it right" and would enhance their "respect and responsibility" training programmes and hire someone to oversee the project.

On Friday they said they would work with a prominent anti-sexual violence advocate as well, and Tew added that his organisation would need to "be quick" in engaging with women's groups to avoid the sport's reputation being diminished further.

"We are not where we want to be in terms of the culture of the game and attitudes towards women," Tew added.


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