Player education key in raising awareness
of off field conduct

The National Rugby League (NRL) has released its official report into player attitudes towards women, which was commissioned in the wake of the damaging sex scandals which rocked the code during 2004.

The 'Playing by the Rules' report recommends that the NRL gets agreement from all clubs on a standard procedure to be used when a player is accused of sexual impropriety.

The report also recommends a raft of educational measures to increase players' awareness of sexual assault and discrimination issues.

The report found that players were "unequivocal that sexual assault of women is always wrong".

But it added that a "minority" of players interviewed "needed greater education in how to negotiate sexual encounters in a way that ensures informed decisions from both parties."

"Rugby league players do not want to be perceived as part of a group who harm or harass women," it continued.

Among the recommendations of the report was that the NRL provide funding to the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre to produce a documentary showing the long-term impact of sexual assault on victims.

And it proposed the setting up of Mentors in Violence Prevention Program to help veteran players guide and educate less experienced team-mates.

The report was produced by a team at the University of Sydney.

Its findings were cautiously welcomed by Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward.

"It does two things," she said.

"It confirms that the League wants to do something about it, but it also confirms that there is a link between bad behaviour and attitudes to women, and that these are words coming out of players' mouths, so you can't argue that these aren't their attitudes."

But she called on the NRL to employ more women at the higher levels of the game's administration.

"And one of the reasons, in an industry with very few women in it that you get this bad behaviour very often, is that absence of women.

"Men don't [get] used to dealing with [women] in a range of ... respectful ways. A sexualising of women occurs in industries where there are very few of them."