‘NZ must challenge sexism and alcohol’

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New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith was found guilty of misconduct after entering a toilet cubicle with a woman at Christchurch airport

Alcohol abuse, sexism and a sense of entitlement among players are some of the problems New Zealand Rugby (NZR) must challenge, a report has found.

NZR commissioned a “respect and responsibility review” in 2016, after a series of scandals involving players, including the assault of a woman who was hired to strip at a team party.

The review investigated 36 cases of misconduct in the last four years.

In more than half, alcohol and drug use were found to be key factors.

Published on Thursday, the review made more than 100 recommendations, with six ‘key changes’ to be implemented over the next two years.

The review’s author, New Zealand Law Society president Kathryn Beck, said the most prominent issues involved the impact and use of alcohol, behaviour towards women, and sense of entitlement in some players.

The areas to be addressed include: ‘inclusive leadership’, ‘developing people’, ‘nurturing wellbeing’, ‘gender equity’, ‘proactive engagement’ and ‘being accountable and independent’.

NZR chief executive Steve Tew said “the integrity, reputation, and ultimate success of the game in New Zealand” depended on the recommendations being successfully adopted.

Also in 2016, scrum-half Aaron Smith was seen entering a toilet cubicle with a woman at Christchurch Airport. He was later found guilty of misconduct.

The review said that incidents “prior to and in 2016 began to undermine rugby’s place” in New Zealand society and “no longer reflected contemporary values and expected behaviours”.

NZR chairman Brent Impey said “undertaking any significant culture change in any organisation is complex and takes time”, but added: “The NZR board is committed to setting a long-term programme for action that will deliver a number of activities in the short, medium and long-term.

“Rugby has long been held up as one of the unique vehicles for New Zealanders to feel connected to each other, to be inspired, and be great members of their communities.

“We want to play our part in those opportunities and ensure rugby plays a positive role in our society.”

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