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Stripper saga results in Chiefs cautions

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/09/2016 Angelo Risso

Every player on the Chiefs' 2016 roster has been issued a formal warning for their role in a post-season incident with a stripper.

However no individual players will face further action after New Zealand Rugby were unable to verify allegations of sexual assault.

Players were alleged to have hired and subsequently licked, inappropriately touched and short-changed a woman called Scarlette.

The incident allegedly took place at the Chiefs' "Mad Monday" post-season celebrations at the Okoroire hot pools.

A NZ Rugby investigation concluded the players had acted inappropriately by hiring the stripper, and had damaged the entire Chiefs brand.

But the allegations of sexual assault were found to be groundless after interviews with players, witnesses and the woman herself.

Witnesses said some players had acted raucously by whistling and shouting but did not crowd around the stripper or expose themselves to her.

A dispute over payment did, however, take place.

Allegations of similar behaviour at the Chiefs' 2015 post-season event were also unfounded, according to NZ Rugby.

No players will face further charges of misconduct as a result and NZ Police have already indicated they won't pursue the matter.

NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew nevertheless said the incident was unacceptable and embarrassing for the Super Rugby club.

Repeat behaviour at future events would be punished more severely.

"We are far from satisfied that players should not bear some culpability for the harm done to the game, to the Chiefs brand and to their families," Mr Tew said.

"We've made it abundantly clear to the players that their activity and decision making in these situations is totally unacceptable."

Only 24 Chiefs players were present for the stripper performance but had agreed to take collective responsibility for what occurred.

NZ Rugby will now work with the club and New Zealand Rugby Players Association to develop union-wide protocols around post-season events.

Tew later said in a press conference that post-season events would not be banned completely but should involve food, drinks and families.

"If we drive it underground we're likely to get worse behaviour," Tew said.

"What we're better to do is make sure we've got better structures and policies around those gatherings."

Education programmes will also be considered.

NZRPA chief Rob Nichol said Chiefs players accepted the cautions and felt they had failed their club and fans.

The incident was a permanent black mark on their records, he said.

"The players recognise that collectively they made poor decisions," Nichol said.

Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman said the club also accepted the union's verdict.

Management were disappointed no players stepped in to halt the performance and would be more involved in post-season celebrations in the future.

Flexman said players had apologised to fans, club employees and sponsors.

The Chiefs had lost two sponsors as a result of the incident, one of which is reported to be food delivery company My Food Bag.

Head coach Dave Rennie also expressed his disappointment, saying the club had worked hard to build a strong community culture.

They would now need to recultivate respect within the Waikato area.

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