A large boys’ high school has admitted to 17 rule breaches at major rowing regattas including entering experienced rowers as novices.
Hamilton Boys’ High School has been forced to apologise and accept disqualifications and a possible suspension after an investigation carried out by the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Association (NZSSRA).
The school admitted to 17 breaches of rules and regulations across 10 events in the Under 15 and Under 16 novice boys categories at four regattas - including two national championships.
The school failed to properly enter and/or substitute two rowers at the 2021 Maadi Cup (the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Championships) and the 2022 North Island Secondary School Rowing Championships.
Those same two rowers were then entered as “novices” in subsequent years at the 2022 and 2023 North Island Secondary School Rowing Championships and the 2022 Maadi Cup when they were not eligible to do so.
In the decision, published yesterday, the NZRSSA Schools Committee spokesman said the breaches were “significant and affected a number of other schools and rowers.
“The sanctions imposed should serve as a reminder to all schools that they must fully comply with the rules, no exceptions. In particular, those schools with large rowing programmes must make sure they have all the necessary systems and checks in place to ensure entries and substitutions are made and done so in compliance with the rules,” he said.
Hamilton Boys High School has had all its crews who competed in the 10 events where a breach occurred disqualified. All points gained from those events are forfeited and all trophies and medals must be returned.
The school also faces a conditional suspension from the membership of NZRSSA for one regatta if the school breaches the same rules again within two years - meaning none of the school’s students would be able to compete.
Hamilton Boys High School also had to issue a written apology and pay $5000 towards legal costs and the cost of replacement medals and associated administration.
The Schools Committee spokesperson said a suspension was the most severe sanction the Association could impose.
In its apology, headmaster Susan Hassall admitted the breaches and said the school was “devastated” to learn of them and apologised “unreservedly to all the schools competing in the regattas involved”.
“Our rowing programme has grown significantly in recent years, and we clearly did not have sufficient systems in place to make sure such breaches did not occur,” she wrote.
“We deeply regret the impact this has had on the students at other schools and can assure everyone that we are making significant changes to our rowing programme to make sure it never happens again.
“The breaches do not reflect the school’s approach to sport and were, regrettably, the result of very poor judgement by one person in our rowing programme. At no point in time did the school set out to breach NZRSSA’s rules and regulations.
“The staff member concerned was at all times trying to provide opportunities for boys to row - including during the very difficult period where regattas were significantly impacted by Covid-19. However, that is not an excuse for the breaches.
“It is not acceptable that any school, and in particular one with such a strong rowing heritage at HBHS, breaches the rules in this way. We are sorry we did not do better.”
Hassall said they were making changes to the rowing programme to make sure there were no more breaches.
She said the school would have fewer rowers and crews compete to reduce the administrative burden on staff. The school was also going to require multiple layers of sign-off for entries and substitutions instead of leaving that as the responsibility of one person.
“We hope that these changes are seen for what they are, a genuine and committed effort to ensure that mistakes of the kind made are not repeated,” she said.