Chiefs tell sponsors in wake of stripper scandal - no leaks please

An investigation was underway after allegations of sexual assault by the Chiefs. Photo / Bruce Lim /
An investigation was underway after allegations of sexual assault by the Chiefs. Photo / Bruce Lim /

Sponsors of the Chiefs have been sent a memo by the franchise asking them to refrain from leaking any developments to the media in the wake of the team's "Mad Monday" stripper scandal.

Fairfax have reported that the email was set by Chiefs chief executive Andrew Flexman on Wednesday.

In it he told them that New Zealand Rugby's investigation into allegations players acted inappropriately with a stripper named as Scarlette on the Monday after they were knocked out of the Super Rugby playoffs was progressing and asked that sponsors "remain positive about the direction it is taking".

The memo read: "Given the complexity of the investigation, and the number of different stakeholders involved, it is important that a process is followed around how the investigation findings are communicated.

"As part of this process we will be operating as we have over the past few weeks, where we speak firstly to our sponsors and fans before we make any public comment through the media.

We sincerely hope that we can continue to control the media discourse but that will only be possible where developments remain confidential and we don't get 'leaked' information."

Fairfax reported media commentator Dr Gavin Ellis as saying that there appeared to be a determination to manipulate sponsors and their responses to the media.

"It's disturbing that they think they can control the media discourse," he told Fairfax. "There is a significant public interest in this story. These young men are all role models and their behaviour doesn't appear to be consistent with that of role models."

Dr Ellis said the organisation had a responsibility to the public to be open.

"They have a responsibility to answer those questions because they rely on the public support. If they're going to maintain their relationship with the public then they're going to need to be open and that's through the media.

"They shouldn't be trying to determine the course that the story takes, the story should be determined by what the public needs to know."

The email might have been prompted by the initial response to the story of a major sponsor, Gallagher Group, whose corporate services executive Margaret Comer seemed to defend the actions of some of the players, who were alleged to have touched Scarlette inappropriately.

She said: "If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her?"

"It's not nice and perhaps the stripper shouldn't have been hired, but I'm reluctant to say that the boys were out of line."

Comer later backtracked.

A Chiefs spokeswoman told the Herald on Tuesday that New Zealand Rugby staff were on site at the Chiefs' base in Ruakura and that the franchise would not comment on anything to do with the inquiry while it was ongoing.

Players' Association boss Rob Nichol said: "Regardless of the fact that the police have decided not to take any action, our inquiries are continuing as we try to ascertain exactly what happened that day."

- NZ Herald

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