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