NZ tackle macho rugby culture
Pundits have labelled it the "season from hell" for the NZR, tarnishing the image of a sport which is viewed with almost religious fervour in New Zealand.
Recent incidents include a stripper who alleged she was groped and demeaned during a Waikato Chiefs' player function. An internal NZR review cast doubt on her story and cleared the players but women's groups said the investigation smacked of victim blaming.
Then it emerged a teenage rugby star escaped conviction after viciously assaulting four people, including two women, in an unprovoked attack on a Wellington street.
NZR initially stood by the player before making a clumsy U-turn and agreeing to terminate his contract amid a massive public backlash.
Just as the furore was dying down, the All Blacks were forced to discipline scrumhalf Aaron Smith over a tryst with a mystery woman in a disabled toilet cubicle at busy Christchurch Airport.
The "Respect and Responsibility Review" will look at how to change rugby's macho culture and make it more inclusive.
NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew stated NZR was ready to step up to better meet the public’s expectations of rugby starting with a focus on growing NZR’s induction and ongoing education programme and ultimately the culture in the professional environments
Tew said: "In the same way that rugby seeks to do better on the field, we must constantly seek ways to improve off the field,"
While NZR Chairman Brent Impey elaborated on the panel's role and the review.
Impey said: "[The panel] will undertake a review of New Zealand Rugby policies, processes and programmes already in place, and that may need to be developed further, to build a culture of respect and responsibility in the professional rugby environment,"
"This Review is part of our continued efforts to be a world leading organisation that enables everyone involved with rugby in New Zealand to be the best that they can be,"
The panel will be chaired by New Zealand Law Society President and employment lawyer Kathryn Beck. She is joined by fellow panel members Sport NZ Board member and former netball administrator Jackie Barron, New Zealand Cricket and Hurricanes Board member Liz Dawson, former World Anti-Doping Agency head David Howman, HR and Communications Executive Kate Daly, former All Black greats Michael Jones and Keven Mealamu, respected former All Blacks doctor Dr Deb Robinson, and Olympic Gold medallist Lisa Carrington. Robyn Cockburn will support the review as researcher and writer.
Beck welcomed the opportunity to lead this work for New Zealand Rugby.
"This is an important piece of work for rugby in New Zealand. I am encouraged by the conversations I have already held with New Zealand Rugby as it demonstrates a real desire to drive a positive change in the way rugby identifies and addresses issues of respect and responsibility.
"Rugby in New Zealand is in a unique position where it should be able to inspire and encourage New Zealanders – young and old – to be the very best people they can be.
"I am delighted with the calibre of the panel as I believe they will help New Zealand Rugby to have a meaningful, and real, assessment of its culture," she said.
A preliminary report will be provided to the NZR Board in April 2017, and the outcomes of the review will be available in May 2017.
Source: Agence France-Presse