SportsSeptember 9, 2016

A Spinoff inquiry into NZ Rugby’s Chiefs inquiry


NZ Rugby hoped this week to draw a line under the scandal around the Chiefs behaviour at an end-of-season function. Fine, but we just have a few nagging, planet-sized questions, writes Hayden Donnell.

Where is the report?

Does it exist? Where is it?

Just about all we’ve heard about this extensive report is from a press conference fronted by ashen-faced rugby men, where we were told that “the allegations… are not substantiated”. Why is there no link to the report in the press release, discovered in the archive.


Why wasn’t one of the two key complainants interviewed?

This investigation wasn’t into just one incident, but two.

Though it started off as an inquiry into Scarlette’s claims, a second woman, Laura, came forward on August 5 to say she was touched inappropriately when performing during a Chiefs party in 2015.

Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman quickly asked NZR to expand the terms of its inquiry to include Laura’s claims.


The NZR agreed to the request.

Last night, it turned out its unnamed investigator didn’t even speak to Laura, though he managed to speak to 15 other witnesses. It wasn’t like she was hard to get hold of. Newshub’s reporter Janika ter Ellen had contacted Chiefs management, at Laura’s request, offering to provide her contact details.

“They never took up that offer,” she said last night.

NZR provided a statement to ter Ellen explaining that they’d had a go at pursuing one of the main subjects of their investigation, but hey, no luck.

“Their efforts to contact her were through police and their investigator’s assumption was that a journalist wouldn’t disclose their source,” ter Ellen said on Newshub. “As I mentioned in that story, that’s at odds with what I said about Laura being very very keen to be involved.”

It sounds a little bit like NZR’s investigator did the legal equivalent of going down to the changing sheds, calling out “Laura” and then heading back up to head office saying “I can’t find the sheila”. That’s not an acceptable effort. How can you resolve an investigation with the conclusion “the alleged inappropriate behaviour did not take place as reported by the woman and the media” when you haven’t even spoken with her, despite her offer to cooperate? Is the NZR’s investigator still operating under Middle Ages-style justice laws where a woman’s testimony isn’t admissible in court?

Why was Scarlette interviewed last?

NZR’s investigator interviewed 15 witnesses before getting around to talking to the person whose complaint he was investigating.

That seems back-to-front.

Not to Steve Tew, who says they couldn’t get hold of her initially and in any case, he told Radio New Zealand’s Susie Ferguson it was totally fine because Scarlette’s version of the story had already been broadcast “live on television”.


Tew was immediately lethally owned by Ferguson, who said even RNZ had much more information than what was broadcast on TV. She then cut to an old audio clip of Scarlette making allegations that weren’t contained in her original interviews.

In it, Scarlette says the Chiefs players had a “pack mentality”, got their penises out during her performance, and were generally awful and threatening. But the most startling passage is this:

“Then he proceeded to touch my vagina multiple times with me telling him not to and eventually having to fight him off. That didn’t deter him though. He kept going.”

That goes beyond any of the allegations made previously.

It’s no wonder police want to speak to her again.

Where are the players?

Here’s a weird quote from the NZ Rugby Players Association’s chief executive Rob Nichol:

“This is a good group of young men… they’re embarrassed, they’re disappointed in themselves and now they’re looking to actually put their hand up, take that responsibility and move forward.”

Which Chiefs player was Nichol talking about when he said they’ve “put their hand up”? Presumably they’re in the same place as the players Chiefs CEO lauded for having “really front-footed it. They’ve owned it”, ie nowhere.

No players have come forward to talk about this. None has apologised. We don’t even know who was involved. Even when Steve Tew handed down a dreaded “black mark” as punishment for all this “poor judgement”, he handed it to all Chiefs players – including 16 who weren’t at the event.

No-one has “put their hand up” here.

Especially not the players.


Who was even interviewed?

We know the NZR investigator spoke to nine “independent” witnesses and six others, possibly including Scarlette. Who were these witnesses? Were they all there during the alleged abuse? Are any of them actually independent of the Chiefs; that is, were any not a fan of the side or receiving income directly or indirectly from the squad? And how many of them were Chiefs players – a group who were according to Scarlette so smashed they had to be banished to a gravel-filled garden bar outside Ōkoroire Hot Pools?

Related: Why do we trust the testimony of drunk men, but not drunk women?

This is more a question for the world. When a woman admits she was drunk during a sexual assault, we question the worth of her testimony, and often dismiss it as unreliable.

It doesn’t seem men have the same problem.

Even though the Chiefs players directly involved in this incident were, by their own admission, totally trashed, their testimony seems to have been given more weight than the sober testimony of two women who say they were abused.

Why was the investigation carried out by a paid employee of New Zealand Rugby?

It’s like Colonel Sanders investigating the 11 herbs and spices.

Thomas investigating the Tank Engine business.

Louise Upston investigating the Prime Minister.

Jackie Blue is absolutely right to be mad over the lack of independence in this inquiry. Sign her open letter here.

Who was the investigator?

If this senior legal counsel for NZR is so confident in his whitewash report, why doesn’t he put his name to it? Seems weird.

Is this whole thing total bullshit?

It is the considered opinion of the Spinoff Editorial Board that this whole thing is total bullshit.

Our sports coverage is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and want to help us do more – tautoko mai, donate today.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox