21 Dec 2016

Wellington Rugby told it needs more women at top

1:45 pm on 21 December 2016

Wellington Rugby has been told it needs to embark on a ten-year plan to change its culture and include more women in the administration of the game.

Dame Margaret Bazley has presented her findings into a review of the Wellington Rugby Football Union's handling of Losi Filipo's case after the player was initially supported by Wellington Rugby when he was discharged without conviction for assaulting four people in the central city in October last year. The decision was appealed and he was later sentenced to supervision.

Her review found Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU) managed the situation as well as could be expected, as they did not have a 'robust set of documents' around expectations about players' behaviour.

The union's documents did not reflect today's standards and needed an overhaul, she said.

"The Wellington Rugby Football Union stance that off-field behaviour is not their concern is outdated, given it is this behaviour that is bringing rugby into disrepute."

Wellington Lions player Losi Filipo

Losi Filipo Photo: Wellington Lions

It was time to engage some of the numerous women rugby supporters, as currently it was predominantly men administering the sport, Dame Margaret said.

There were 40 professional members, 11,000 amateur players - including 1200 women - and thousands of volunteers involved in the sport, many of whom were women, she said.

"[But] at the very top there are only men."

New standards for the union should apply to everyone, including paid staff and volunteers, she said.

Dame Margaret made a number of recommendations in her review, including that WRFU embark on ten-year 'culture change'.

The development of the plan should be undertaken by rugby people, but with input from personnel experts experienced in culture change, and women.

"And women who do not have formal involvement with the sports world - I've suggested several times that they really look at empowering the thousands of women that they have at the grass roots of their organisation and bring some of those women up to the top."

Dame Margaret Bazley, right, announces her findings after reviewing Welington Rugby's handling of the Losi Filipo case. WRFU chief executive Steve Rogers sits on the left and WRFU chairman Iain Potter is centre.

Dame Margaret Bazley, right, announces her findings after reviewing Welington Rugby's handling of the Losi Filipo case. WRFU chief executive Steve Rogers sits on the left and WRFU chairman Iain Potter is centre. Photo: RNZ

The plan should state players' responsibilities on and off the field to be good citizens, and a zero-tolerance approach for serious misconduct should be included, she said.

WRFU chairman Iain Potter said Dame Margaret had done a great job in challenging the organisation, and they accepted her recommendations.

He said they needed to expand their definition of what it meant to bring experience to the board, and the review had been a catalyst for change.

"Arguably we should've been ahead of that, but we've got it."

Wellington Rugby supported Losi Filipo after assault charges were laid but later terminated his contract.

One of the victims who was attacked by Filipo had called for him to be dropped from the team.

The Wellington Lions player was initially discharged without conviction over the assault on four people in central Wellington in 2015. Following an appeal, he was sentenced to supervision.

Wellington Rugby admitted it had known few details about Filipo's crime and New Zealand Rugby admitted it had lessons to learn from the handling of the player's case.

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