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The NRL Chief Executives have given unanimous support to new measures targeting attitudes towards women within Rugby League.
The have also supported a $1million commitment to the provision of further education and welfare opportunities proposed jointly by the NRL, the RLPA and club Welfare and Education officers. Included in this commitment is a transition programme which will assist retiring players in maximizing their employment potential.
Players will undergo specific courses targeting attitudes towards women and senior players at each club will be offered 'mentoring courses' so that they can in turn help younger players adapt to the pressures of professional football and to help create an environment that discourages any tolerance of negative attitudes to women.
The game's Welfare and Education Committee will shortly appoint the companies to provide each course.
An independent counseling service has already been offered for anyone wishing to bring complaints in relation to sexual misconduct issues by players. Callers will be advised of all rights and offered counseling if they desire at no cost. The Davidson Trahaire Corpsych number is 1300 360362.
Furthermore, the NRL will commission an extensive research programme involving Associate Professor Catharine Lumby, Karen Willis of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, Education advisor and industry consultant Wendy McCarthy, Canberra University's Dr Michael Flood and senior researcher Kath Albury.
The research programme includes a forum for the game's stakeholders to be conducted at an appropriate time.
The RLPA has already expressed its request for a summit and the NRL has said that it would support a forum when the time was right. It is expected this may be achievable in late April.
The Welfare and Education measures announced today will see the NRL increase its already significant contribution in this area by $33,000 per club each year for approved Education and Welfare projects.
This funding will only be available after the clubs have themselves committed the same amount in agreed areas.
"The model put forward is one that sees the clubs commit to quality education programmes over and above what they already have in place," the NRL Welfare and Education Committee Chairman and Sydney University Director of Sport, Mr Greg Harris, said today.
"It's a shared responsibility and one that works directly at improving the culture within each club.
"The funding will tie specifically to the provision of Welfare and Education officers, professional career assessment, group education courses and individual scholarships.
"The proposal has been put forward by a committee that includes RLPA President, Mr Tony Butterfield, the NRL, and club representatives and it has the full backing of each member."
NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said that today's steps are a clear sign of the game's commitment to change:
"It's unfortunate in one way that some issues we have been working on for some time will now be seen as reactive rather than proactive but the commitment is there nevertheless.
"I have said that the game needs to accept the reality of issues that it faces, but that it also has to be a community leader in finding solutions.
"There are some short term measures in terms of new awareness courses which will hopefully produce similar results to those that have worked in regard to other issues such as racial vilification in the past.
"But there is also a need to drive towards long term solutions that accurately examine the game's attitudes on a range of levels, as well as those that provide increased opportunity for our players through education."
The Club Chief Executives also today agreed to give the NRL responsibility for time keeping procedures.
The NRL will appoint time keepers for Telstra Premiership matches, taking over from club appointed timekeepers.
This will come into force in the next few weeks, once the NRL has been able to appoint the appropriate personnel.
Discussion was also held today on the possibility of playing six Monday night matches late in the season (rounds 20-25).
While some clubs have expressed a preference not to be involved, the possibility of scheduling games involving the remaining clubs is still being examined.
The Monday night matches would be telecast on Fox Sports and would not affect free to air broadcasts on the Nine network.