Club may end pitch-side drink­ing in bid to change cul­ture

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BEN AULAKH

With New Zealand’s na­tional game un­der fire, a South Can­ter­bury rugby club is look­ing at mak­ing part of its ground al­co­hol-free, to drive a cul­ture change in the sport.

Geraldine Rugby Club pres­i­dent Chris Fisher said a cou­ple of sea­sons ago, Com­mu­nity and Pub­lic Health (CPH) ap­proached the club with sug­ges­tions of how it could help pro­mote a health­ier club cul­ture.

Through a part­ner­ship with CPH it in­tro­duced health­ier meal op­tions, milk in the changing rooms af­ter train­ing in­stead of beer, mak­ing wa­ter more widely avail­able on club premises, and re­mov­ing al­co­hol ad­ver­tis­ing from the bar area. ‘‘We de­cided that was some­thing we could use to our ad­van­tage, tell a bet­ter story about our club, and look­ing for things that could do that’’, Fisher said.

As an ‘‘evo­lu­tion’’ of the steps the club had al­ready taken, Fisher said it was now look­ing at mak­ing the play­ing area, in­clud­ing the side­lines, al­co­hol-free on match days. ‘‘We can see that this is is pos­si­bly some­thing we need to do and get be­hind it. We want to make rugby more ap­peal­ing to dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

‘‘Our vi­sion is just the out­side pitch area dur­ing the game. We don’t want to take away hav­ing a few beers in the clu­b­rooms, it’s def­i­nitely about re­spon­si­bil­ity around the ground.

‘‘We are try­ing to be a com­mu­nity body rather than a place a heap of guys go to. I think be­fore we were a bit of a boys’ club, we are try­ing to change that.’’

He said the Re­spect and Re­spon­si­bil­ity Review, which high­lighted 36 cases of mis­con­duct in New Zealand rugby over the last four years, was more proof of the need for a cul­ture change in the na­tional game.

Fisher said in com­mon with pre­vi­ous years, at the end of the cur­rent sea­son the club’s board would be sit­ting down with CPH and look­ing at how to take the al­co­hol-free plan for­ward.

‘‘There’ll def­i­nitely be some op­po­si­tion to it, but for the club and so­ci­ety’s take on it [al­co­hol], we have to change. ‘‘It might not change in 12 months, it might take five years. It needs to move for­ward as peo­ple get more com­fort­able with th­ese things.’’

Fisher said CPH wasn’t ‘‘set­ting the rules’’ the club op­er­ated un­der around al­co­hol, ‘‘they are help­ing us come to a place where we think we can get to’’.

At Au­gust’s Com­mu­nity and Pub­lic Health Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee meet­ing, CPH team leader Katie Jahnke said it had been work­ing closely with the club through the two-year pi­lot. ‘‘If it looks to be suc- cess­ful, and look­ing at the re­sults that we have seen so far I think it’s go­ing to be the case, we’ll be very keen to see it im­ple­mented at other clubs around the district.’’

‘‘My job is to take the things that have worked well in the Geraldine set­ting to be ap­plied at other clubs.’’

South Can­ter­bury med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health Dr Daniel Wil­liams said mak­ing grounds al­co­hol-free as well as smoke-free sent a ‘‘pow­er­ful mes­sage about club val­ues’’. South Can­ter­bury Rugby Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig Calder said he was both sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed CPH had not ap­proached the union for its help in push­ing an al­co­hol-free mes­sage.

‘‘We would en­dorse it, com­mu­ni­cate it out to the clubs, we are to­tally be­hind it...’’ Calder said the union had al­ready shown its com­mit­ment to the pol­icy when the Cru­saders game against the High­landers in Ti­maru in July was al­co­hol-free. He would be keen to talk to CPH about tak­ing what it was do­ing at Geraldine Rugby Club to other clubs

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