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Independent Judicial Panel’s determination of Saint Kentigern 1A rugby complaint

College Sport Auckland accept the findings of the Independent Judicial Panel’s Investigation into the complaint brought to College Sport Auckland by Saint Kentigern Trust Board.

We thank the panel for the significant time and consideration they have put into this very comprehensive investigation.

College Sport Auckland is currently consulting with all its member schools as part of its biannual bylaw review. The eligibility of transferring students playing in all of its premier sports is a key part of this review.

Mark P Shanahan (Board Chair) & Jim Longergan (CEO)
College Sport Auckland

 

Independent Panel upholds St Kentigern Trust Board complaint that Principals’ boycott breached rugby Code, but finds St Kentigern failed to adequately respond to opposition concerning unfair advantage from new-to-school players

An independent judicial panel appointed by College Sport Auckland (CSA) has upheld a complaint by the St Kentigern Trust Board about a proposed new Code of Conduct for the 2019 Auckland Secondary Schools 1st XV Rugby 1A competition. The new Code was driven by 10 participating schools, and aimed at preventing excessive player recruitment. It used the threat of defaulting games against St Kentigern, unless St Kentigern agreed to new rules restricting their tactical player recruitment practices.

The Panel, comprised of Wellington barrister Tim Castle, former Auckland college principal Gail Thomson and former All Black Ian Jones, found that the proposed new Code was unauthorized and in breach of CSA Rules and By-laws. The new Code sought to require that all “new-to-school” Auckland secondary student rugby players who have transferred from an NZRU 1st XV sanctioned competition stand down for the first six 1A competition games, plus any potential semi-final or final matches. The target of the new Code was St Kentigern College, who intended to field up to three new-to-school players who are established talented rugby players from provincial secondary schools.

The Panel expressed concern that the ultimatum by 10 out of 11 principals of participating schools would have the negative effect of preventing all 30 members of the St Kentigern 1st XV from playing 1A rugby in the 2019 season; a result that would not have had the best interests of the students at heart.

The St Kentigern Trust Board complaint was upheld. Furthermore, in the Panel’s view, St Kentigern broke no current CSA rules.
However, the Panel also criticised St Kentigern for undertaking a sustained period of “annual” strengthening of its 1st XV rugby side. This has included providing scholarships for players to move from competing schools to bolster St Kentigern’s chances of 1st XV rugby success. St Kentigern have strenuously denied targeted recruiting. The Panel found that St Kentigern did not adequately recognise and respond to a changed mood in recent years where concern about the practices being adopted has been openly expressed by many schools, and also by the Auckland Secondary School Rugby Union.

Panel Chair Tim Castle said “The Panel is satisfied that over quite a lengthy period St Kentigern have engaged in this strategy – with some success. Relationships between participating schools have suffered. We find that St Kentigern is in significant respect the author of its own misfortune in not adequately taking on board the changed mood amongst the participating schools community.” The Panel accepted that none of the participating schools are necessarily immune from similar allegations, or without similar fault. “Kāti rawa i konei, me mutu ēnei mahi,” Mr Castle said; “Enough is enough; this practice must stop.”

The Panel found that the schools had not fulfilled their requirements under CSA Rule 5.2 to resolve differences directly with each other, and that there were not “exceptional circumstances” which exempted them from the requirement to use best endeavours to resolve their differences. The participating schools held one unsuccessful meeting, which did not fulfil the obligations on all of them under the principles of Rule 5.

To resolve the impasse, the Panel recommended that St Kentigern agree to not play their new-to-school players from outside of Auckland for the first six games of the 2019 1A tournament. King’s College and St Kentigern agreed to this recommendation.

The other ten schools rejected the Panel’s compromise solution, still intending to default their games against St Kentigern. The Panel view this stance by the ten schools as a breach of CSA By-law 15.1, which requires participating schools to “participate fully” in any and all CSA competitions that they have entered. After further discussions with the Panel the St Kentigern Trust Board decided that in the interests of all students and the welfare of the 1A competition, they would agree to additionally stand down their new-to-school players in any semi-final or final games.

In February 2019 CSA announced that it would review all rules and by-laws for the sports that it oversees, with the aim of allowing all participating schools to consider what changes should be implemented in 2020. “Allowing for proper procedures, designed to give everyone a chance to reflect and have their say….is infinitely more preferable than threats of default in the absence of agreement,” the Panel concluded.

Media contact: Tim Castle
Barrister
Ph +64 21 419 323

 

Photo / Gisborne Herald