Two sponsors terminate Chiefs agreement after stripper scandal

By Belinda Feek

New Zealand Rugby issued the Chiefs a formal warning which will sit as a "black mark" on their record. PHOTO/Getty Images
New Zealand Rugby issued the Chiefs a formal warning which will sit as a "black mark" on their record. PHOTO/Getty Images

The Chiefs have lost two major sponsors after they were issued a formal warning regarding allegations of sexual assault.

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.

Last month, allegations were made that members of the Chiefs rugby team inappropriately touched, licked and threw alcohol and gravel at a stripper. New Zealand Rugby issued them a formal warning which will sit as a "black mark" on their record.

My Food Bag has confirmed it 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.

Liam Messam, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Sam Cane and Brodie Retallick will continue to be individually sponsored.

"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."

The Chiefs allegedly touched, licked, threw alcohol and gravel at a stripper. Cartoon by Rod Emmerson
The Chiefs allegedly touched, licked, threw alcohol and gravel at a stripper. Cartoon by Rod Emmerson

Robinson said the company would donate the remaining Chiefs sponsorship fees for 2016 to the Women's Refuge.

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

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

"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 said that kind of decision was 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."

Comer's comments were more conservative 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".

AON is refusing to comment, while Lion Nathan confirmed it still backs the team.

However, spokesman Ben Wheeler says the company was not impressed with their behaviour on the day in question.

"Clearly the behaviour demonstrated at the post-season celebrations was not acceptable and is very disappointing. It does not align with Lion's values, or the values we expect of our sponsorship partners, and we have made that position very clear to the Chiefs.

"We welcome the action taken by New Zealand Rugby to ensure that the culture that enabled such behaviour is addressed, particularly the development of protocols around celebrations for rugby environments, and the development of a respect and responsibility programme."

A Generation Homes spokesperson said the company would continue its sponsorship of the Chiefs.

"However, we look forward to seeing the Chiefs focus on rebuilding their reputation by adopting the recommendations from the investigation and taking collective responsibility to ensure poor decisions are not repeated."

First Windows & Doors will also continue to sponsor the team, as will MediaWorks.

A MediaWorks spokesman said it would "continue our regional sponsorship of the team, but have expressed our concerns to the Chiefs about the behaviour at the celebrations".

In a statement, Placemakers said it acknowledged the team's apology but said it would continue to sponsor the team.

Fairfax Media is yet to respond to the Herald, but it has been reported that its sponsorship has ended, however that occurred before the stripper incident took place.

- NZ Herald

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