NRL: Match-fixing and drugs warning

By David Riccio

The Bulldogs will be told "what is expected" of them off the field at the Auckland Nines, says the club's chief executive. Photo / Getty Images
The Bulldogs will be told "what is expected" of them off the field at the Auckland Nines, says the club's chief executive. Photo / Getty Images

The NRL's confidential security and risk management plan for the inaugural Auckland Nines warns that players could be lured into fixing matches and are at risk of being offered performance-enhancing or illicit drugs during next weekend's tournament.

The nine-page document illustrates how serious the NRL are to ensure the inaugural Nines tournament is free from the seedy headlines which have plagued the recent off-season.

The NRL's Integrity and Compliance Unit (ICU), led by the NRL's chief operating officer Jim Doyle, compiled the thorough and detailed risk management plan last month with the intelligence and assistance of the New Zealand Police. It has been sent to the chief executives of all 16 NRL clubs.

All 16 clubs will descend on Auckland next weekend with more than 300 NRL players and officials in attendance. Never before have the NRL attempted such an extraordinary logistical challenge in another country.

It's why, written in bold letters, the document underlines the NRL's focus on "minimising the risk and ramifications of criminal acts, anti-social behaviour contrary to New Zealand law and acceptable social standards, and other breaches of the NRL rules by players and officials."

Those risks, according to the ICU report, include:

Insidious people approaching players offering inducement or threats to compromise performance for betting and wagering.

Performance-enhancing or illicit drugs (in-competition stimulants) being offered or inappropriately provided or surreptitiously administered to players or placed in players hydration supplies or pre-game supplements.

Theft of players' valuables and other personal items and clothing as souvenirs or memorabilia.

The ICU report also stresses that a "strong message will be developed and communicated to all players to educate them and advise them as to the expected standards of behaviour with the aim of being to deter inappropriate behaviour."

A potential impact on the tournament, according to the report, are two other major events in Auckland next weekend, most notably the concert of US rapper Eminem next Saturday night, where a crowd of 50,000 is expected. The ICU are already aware that some NRL players plan to attend the concert.

The other major event is a Festival to celebrate Chinese New Year, which the ICU report warns that following advice from NZ Police, 'some criminal and anti-social behaviour' is expected. Both events will be held less than 10 minutes from Eden Park, the venue for the Nines tournament.

Players and officials will be dispersed around Auckland in separate hotels, warned against attending the city's hot-spots and be bound by a strict code of conduct. Fans will also be curbed from unruly behaviour by being served mid-strength beer in plastic cups.

The influx of tourists into Auckland, where every hotel is fully booked, ensures the protection of the players is paramount to the NRL. It's why every club will boast their own bodyguard with the police assisting in the recruitment of 21 off-duty New Zealand police officers to act as event liaison officers for each club and the NRL referees.

Dean Lonergan, of Duco Events and co-organiser of the Nines, spoke of a focus on delivering a scandal-free event, both for the players and the spectators.

"The NRL has been adamant from day one that protecting their brand is absolute paramount and we've worked with them to ensure that," Lonergan said. "$100,000 has come out of the budget to ensure the Integrity Unit can do the job they need to do and we will support them entirely."

Canterbury Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said the NRL's risk management plan was imperative, while adding her players' focus was on a successful Nines tournament, not late night benders.

"When you run an international event of this size and quality, this is just part and parcel of how you take care of athletes and I think that's exactly what they've [NRL] done and they should be applauded for it," Castle said.

"We'll be sitting down with our players, as we do for every other event we attend, and be very clear on what is expected."

Roosters CEO Brian Canavan said he hoped the premiers' hectic pre-season schedule, which includes the Nines tournament followed by the World Club Challenge against Wigan on February 22, would curtail any excuse for players to be out past their curfew.

- Herald on Sunday

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