Authors: Rio Sports
New Zealand rugby must change its outdated attitudes towards women and sexual orientation, and get over its culture of entitlement, an independent review into the culture of the country’s beloved national sport has found.
The Respect and Responsibility Review was commissioned by New Zealand Rugby after a string of serious incidents last year, where players from the Chiefs rugby team were accused of groping, licking and throwing gravel at an erotic dancer they had hired for their end-of-season party, as well as making homophobic comments to a gay couple.
It found that NZ Rugby had investigated 36 incidents of misconduct in the last four years, including cases of violence, inappropriate sexual comments, homophobia, and drug and alcohol breaches.
The nine-member review panel was made up of professionals from outside NZ Rugby and featured six women, including Olympic kayaker Lisa Carrington, Jackie Barron from Sport New Zealand and the Law Society president, Kathryn Beck.
The report found “there is a mood for change” in New Zealand and the country’s beloved national sport needed to evolve its outdated attitudes towards women and sexual orientation, and get over its culture of entitlement.
“New Zealanders have long held rugby in high esteem,” the report reads. “Events prior to and in 2016 began to undermine rugby’s place and contribution.”
Of the 36 investigations into misconduct, alcohol was a “key factor” in more than half of the incidents, with drugs and drug-alcohol combinations also having an impact.
The review panel settled on six major goals for NZ Rugby to work towards, including gender equity, inclusive leadership and nuturing the wellbeing of players.
Beck, who chaired the panel, said she was instructed to leave “no stone unturned” and has had access to all areas of NZ Rugby during the nine-month review.
“The impact and use of alcohol, the behaviour towards women, the stardom and sense of entitlement that you see in young players – they were all themes that we saw come through quite strongly,” Beck told Radio NZ.
“Rugby is having to take a deep breath, but it gets it ... Rugby is such a massive part of New Zealand culture and society, and if we can address some of the culture and systemic issues in rugby, hopefully that will ripple out into the community.”
The NZ Rugby chief executive, Steve Tew, said the review was “ground-breaking” and “transformational”, and acknowledged that rugby players in New Zealand were looked up to by younger generations as role models – whether they liked it or not.
“We’re seeing our young boys, in particular, playing first XV rugby [and] effectively being told that they’re elite, high-performance athletes at a ridiculously young age, frankly; and therefore developing, under that pressure of expectation, a sense of entitlement on some of the issues, without being emotionally ready for it,” Tew told Radio NZ.
“We are committing to real change and to be leaders for that change ... The integrity, reputation and ultimate success of the game in New Zealand depends on this.”
The erotic dancer who went public last September with claims of inappropriate behaviour by the Chiefs told Fairfax Media alcohol was to blame for a lot of bad behaviour by rugby players and the Chiefs still owed her NZ$50 (£27) for her work.
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