NZ Rugby acts after stripper scandal backlash

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 07:53
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REACTION: New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced it will work with an anti-sexual violence campaigner Friday after facing a backlash over its handling of allegations that Chiefs players abused a stripper.

NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew said the case had shown his organisation "clearly could do better" regarding attitudes to women and changing rugby's macho culture.

"Recent events show that attitudes among some of our people towards women leaves a lot to be desired," he said. "These views let rugby down."

Tew said NZR would work with Louise Nicholas, a prominent women's advocate and one of the NZR's strongest critics over the stripper scandal, on issues such as player education.

"We're already doing a lot of good work in this area, but clearly we need to do more," he said.

The scandal erupted last month when a stripper known as Scarlette said she was abused at a Chiefs end-of-season party held in a rural North Island pub.

She alleged players aggressively crowded around her, touching her inappropriately and pouring alcohol on her, before refusing to pay her fully.

An internal NZR inquiry cleared the players of sexual abuse but critics questioned its independence and labelled it a cover-up.

At the time, Nicholas said it was a case of rugby bosses "protecting their own" and that Scarlette, whose identity has not been publicly revealed, had not been treated fairly.

Leading rights groups also slammed NZR in an open letter released Thursday.

Tew said NZR has met with critics, including Nicholas, and explained the investigation process to them.

"They accepted that there was no need for the inquiry to be re-litigated by us," he said.

Tew said on Wednesday that the report, which has not been publicly released, found no independent witnesses backed Scarlette's story.

NZR took no action against any individuals, instead issuing a collective caution to the entire playing group, even those who were not there on the night.

Wild end-of-season partying has become known as "Mad Monday" and All Blacks captain Kieran Read said players should be allowed to celebrate.

But he said the Chiefs saga was "disappointing" and the event should have been more tightly managed.

"Certainly I think appropriate plans and making sure you look after each other in the right ways is going to have to be the way forward," he told reporters.

Outspoken former Samoa international Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu said the Chiefs players should have known better.

"These are grown-ass men!" he told Radio New Zealand.

Agence France-Presse

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