New Zealand Rugby step into West Coast racism row

By Viv Logie -
West Coast Rugby Union said it would consider a complaint of abuse. Photo / Getty Images
West Coast Rugby Union said it would consider a complaint of abuse. Photo / Getty Images

Twelve weeks after racism complaints were laid with the West Coast Rugby Union, New Zealand rugby officials will be on the Coast tomorrow to investigate ahead of Saturday's club rugby final.

Racist remarks were allegedly made during a senior match between Kiwi and South Westland on April 30. The South Westland Club claimed there was racial abuse from members of the Kiwi club directed at Pacific Island players in the southern team.

In protest at what they claimed was a lack of attention from the West Coast union, South Westland boycotted its next two games against the Hokitika club.

Today, the West Coast Rugby Union made an about-turn and announced it was now intending to consider the complaint.

West Coast Rugby Union chief executive Mike Connors, said it would consider a complaint of abuse.

The union had requested independent assistance from New Zealand Rugby.

"When originally filed, the complaint could not be progressed when alleged offenders could not be identified in the required 48-hour post-game timeframe," Connors said.

"Judicial advice provided to the union stated that the complaint could not be accepted outside the lodgment window."

Connors said the Coast union and NZR had been in discussions over the past week, following ongoing public debate.

"South Westland have asked for exceptional circumstances to apply in this case, and given the intense public interest, and in the interests of the game, we have agreed.

"Given the time lapse since the original alleged incident, the public scrutiny of this issue, and to give all parties confidence in the process, while allowing us to focus on delivering the game locally, we have asked New Zealand Rugby for assistance in investigating the complaint. We are grateful to New Zealand Rugby for that support.

"It is important to state publicly that West Coast rugby does not tolerate racial or any kind of discrimination or abuse. There is no room in the game for this kind of behaviour, and I urge everyone involved in the game to take responsibility to ensuring it is not tolerated," Mr Connors said.

South Westland Rugby Club's secretary Paddy Kennedy, of Whataroa, said this morning that until the matter was resolved the club would prefer not to comment.

"The club, however, does not have a problem with the Kiwi Rugby Club as a whole. We even have under-14 rugby players playing for the Kiwi under-14 team," he said.

Kennedy said he was disappointed it had taken so long for something to be done about the issue, but was "pleased it was finally being investigated".

- Greymouth Star

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