Stripper scandal: 'Black mark' for Chiefs

An investigation into the actions of Chiefs players during a Mad Monday drinking session has exonerated them of any blame.

However, New Zealand Rugby has issued them a formal warning which will sit as a "black mark" on their record.


New Zealand Rugby held a press conference this afternoon to update the latest in the investigation into the Chiefs stripper scandal.

Last month, allegations were made that members of the Chiefs rugby team inappropriately touched, licked and threw alcohol and gravel at a stripper.

The press conference at 2pm in Wellington was hosted by NZR chief executive Steve Tew.


Tew said the investigation involved the interviewing of players, several independent witnesses and the woman hired for the 2016 celebrations.

The results found that while the performance was legal and consensual, it was wholly inappropriate for professional rugby teams to engage in events of this nature and players should take collective responsibility.

Chiefs management has also not escaped mention with investigators, saying they should have worked more closely with the players to ensure both end of year functions were managed appropriately.

NZR does not have grounds to pursue misconduct against individual players.
There were nine independent witnesses spoken to excluding all the players and staff.

Tew confirmed there was a dispute over payment at the end of the night.

He also confirmed NZR won't ban Mad Monday events as the players will get together at the end of the season and celebrate anyway. The best approach was to manage them and put better support structures around them.

NZ Rugby would try to influence those celebrations to be more family-orientated, Tew said.

"No, we won't ban these types of gatherings. But we will certainly make sure they are very controlled and an organised manner ... if we drive it underground, we are likely to get worse behaviour."

Tew said witness accounts and the investigation led NZR to conclude action could not be taken against any individual player.

Some independent witnesses interviewed as part of the investigation had seen the entire routine, Tew said, and the allegations could not be collaborated.

Asked if that meant the woman had lied, Tew said he could only relay what NZR's general counsel had concluded.

"I'm not prepared to place a judgment on anyone involved in this. I don't think there were are any winners or losers in doing so."

He defended the integrity of the in-house investigation.

Following the "Mad Monday" celebration, Rachael Kirk, who runs Strippers R Us, said she had removed "Scarlette" from her website.

Kirk told the Herald on Sunday that was because the woman had agreed to allow one player to touch her in return for $50, which was against company policy.

Tew would not confirm if the investigation had found that an extra payment was made to allow touching.

"I'm not in a position to go into the detail that our general counsel went through. There was a dispute over payment. Why that dispute occurred is not completely clear.

"This particular form of entertainment is inappropriate. The detail of which, I think for the person involved, is best left out of the conversation as well."

Stripper responds to findings

The stripper, known as Scarlette, has also issued a statement following the revelations.

"I am disappointed but not surprised at the outcome of the NZR's internal investigation.

"My advice for all women is if you are going to attend an all-male event such as the one organised by the Chiefs, whether you are a paid worker or not, take a friend or a supporter who can make sure you are safe and who can vouch for you afterwards if needed."

Scarlette says she does not intend to make any further comment.

'An error of judgment'

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said he was "incredibly disappointed" in what had happened, and management had questioned why they were not aware of what was going on.

"There will be changes made ... it was an error in judgment, it was a poor day, and there have been massive repercussions because of that.

"We will have an opportunity to earn respect back in the community once we come back together."

Chiefs boss Andrew Flexman said two sponsors had decided to terminate their agreement with the Chiefs because of the scandal but would not confirm who they were.

He said he had not considered stepping down because of the controversy.

"My full focus has been on this investigation. The reality is that is a matter for me to discuss at a future point with my board, and I'm sure that those discussions will take place."

My Food Bag pulls sponsorship

My Food Bag has pulled its sponsorship of the team in light of its antics.

Founder and co-chief executive Cecilia Robinson said the team's "conduct at the post-season event was insupportable and does not reflect the values of My Food Bag, its staff or the thousands of families that My Food Bag serves each week."

However, she said they will continue to sponsor a few of the team's individual athletes.

The Chiefs players who will continue to be individually sponsored by My Food Bag are Liam Messam, Tawera Kerr Barlow, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick.

"We wish the club and its players well and hope they will put appropriate processes in place to prevent anything such as this from happening again."

Robinson says the company will donate the remaining Chiefs sponsorship fees for 2016 to the women's refuge.

Women's Refuge posted to their Facebook page that they are "a bit disappointed" in the investigation. However they welcome the donation.

"The donation from My Food Bag will be used to keep women safe from abuse; because sadly a certain rugby team couldn't manage to do this."

Margaret Comer, corporate services executive of Gallagher Group, the Chiefs' main sponsor, says she's pleased with the outcome of the investigation.

"We support the findings, we are happy with the process that was followed and really other than that we have no further comment."

Asked for her views on NZR not banning Mad Mondays, Comer says that kind of decision is outside the company's brief.

"That's a decision for the Chiefs, really. We are a sponsor and that's where our input starts and ends."

She confirmed the company will continue to sponsor the Chiefs and it had no plans to end their partnership.

"No, definitely not."

Comer's comments were more conservative today than when she spoke to media at the time the story broke last month, stating "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".

Comer is also a trustee on the board of Waikato Women's Refuge. Women's Refuge New Zealand chief executive Dr Ang Jury described Comer's comments at the time as "appalling and disappointing".

A Bay of Plenty man who witnessed the events, together with his wife and four other friends who were all independent witnesses for NZR, said he is not surprised by the findings of the investigation.

The man told the Herald at the time of the incident that although some of the players were drinking, he never saw any of them do anything untoward.

"Hopefully it's the end of it now. There will be plenty that think the rugby union is sticking up for the boys and all the rest of it but in this particular case I believe the result is correct and if I had've seen something that I thought that the boys shouldn't have been doing - who by the way I don't know any of them, personally - I wouldn't have stuck up for them that's for sure."

He says Scarlette disputes the fact that he and his friends were even at the pub, which he found bizarre.

"But obviously we were there."

He hopes the players have learnt their lesson about hiring strippers.

"They shouldn't be doing it and I think they're aware of that now, in hindsight. I don't think they'll be doing that anymore and if they do they're bloody fools."

Last month police said that based on discussions, "which include consideration of her [Scarlette's] wishes and the information currently available to us," they would not take the matter further.

"This decision may be reviewed if new information comes to light," police said in a statement.

"As is standard practice, our advice to anyone with concerns about theirs or others' safety, or anyone who has information they think could be relevant to police, is to make contact with us so it can be assessed."

Scarlette told RNZ she was booked to waitress and perform a routine for the side. She said a number of players were "beyond drunk" when she arrived.

"Basically they wanted me to be a whore, which I wasn't there to be. And when I went to collect payment they short-changed me ... I had one of the players going through my phone."

READ MORE
Chiefs in hot water over stripper

Second stripper comes out against Chiefs
Chiefs scandal: 'They touched me, spat beer all over me'

- NZ Herald

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