Dame Margaret Bazley (right) presents the recommendations of her independent review into Wellington Rugby's conduct and recruitment processes along side WRFU chief executive Steve Rogers (left) and WRFU chairman Iain Potter (centre).

WRFU accepts independent review findings

Wellington Rugby has welcomed and accepted six key recommendations made by Dame Margaret Bazley in an independent review of the union's conduct and recruitment processes.

The review was commissioned by the WRFU board in the wake of a public uproar over the handling of Wellington Academy player Losi Filipo.
Dame Margaret has recommended WRFU embark on a ten-year plan to change its culture, and to include more women in the administration of the game.
Her review said a taskforce should be created to design a new system of standards, policies and documents, including a new Code of Conduct which encompasses off-field behaviour.

In relation to the WRFU's handling of the Filipo case, Dame Margaret has praised the union for managing a difficult situation "as well as could be expected", but found the available policies, processes and documents used for dealing with off-field misconduct were out-dated and inconsistent.

Although the WRFU "should be commended on the approach they are taking to the challenges facing today's youth", the review found the union had a male-dominated view on managing off-field misconduct that was out of touch with much of society.

Policy frameworks were "too internally focused" and lacked clarity.

"They did not have available to them a robust set of documents governing the expectations of behaviour, misconduct and penalties that were able to be consistently applied. The documents governing misconduct do not reflect public expectations and need a major overhaul. They fall short of today's standards," Dame Margaret wrote.

The review did not look into the criminal justice system's interaction with Filipo who pleaded guilty and was ultimately convicted of a 2015 assault in central Wellington while still a 17-year-old schoolboy.

Instead it focused on the WRFU's overall ability to deal with off-field misconduct, recruitment and the induction of young players.

Dame Margaret said a ten-year plan should be initiated with the goal of bringing the WRFU's cultural norms more in line with the expectations of modern society.

"The plan should state players' responsibilities to be good citizens, not to act contrary to the best interests of rugby, to abide by the laws they are required to abide by, and to uphold the attitudes and standards of behaviour expected," she wrote.

The new Code of Conduct should clearly cover off field behaviour such as "drunkenness, violence, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and any other behaviour, on or off the field, that is contrary to the best interests of rugby", and be governed by a single easily understood manual.

Her review recommended that the committees and panels set up to develop the change plan, the review of standards, the Code of Conduct, and disciplinary process all have at least two women members and at least one outside expert.

"WRFU is fortunate to have thousands of women volunteers involved the game. They should be empowered to move into administrative roles and to help shape the future governance of the game," she said.

WRFU chairman Iain Potter said the WRFU was looking forward to starting a process that would only further improve rugby's contribution to the wider community.

"We are heartened that the review has confirmed some of the good work rugby does in helping young people become better members of society, but clearly we still have work to do," Potter said.
"In particular we must improve how we respond to cases of serious misconduct and how we can involve more women in the running of our game. Change like this will not happen overnight, but we acknowledge that it must happen. We must do better in the future."