Rugby players may be disciplined by clubs for domestic violence

Pilot programme in Australia may be rolled out worldwide, World Rugby chief says

A new programme that will see rugby players who commit domestic violence disciplined by their clubs could be rolled out worldwide, a congress on family law and children’s rights heard in Dublin on Wednesday.

Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, who spoke at the closing of the World Congress for Family Law and Children’s Rights, endorsed the “Quilt programme”, currently being piloted in Victoria, Australia, which aims to tackle gender-based discrimination and violence.

Speaking in advance of the closing, he said if the programme proved successful in Victoria, World Rugby would look at ways to roll it out on an international scale.

“With the world’s top women rugby players competing at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 in Ireland later this summer, this year is a celebration of women in sport and this important project will promote rugby players as community role models, living the sport’s values to empower and support women in the community,” he said.


As part of the programme, it will be a violation to use gender-based terms like “playing like a girl”. Rugby players and club members will be required to sign up to a new code of conduct under which players will be disciplined for any form of family violence. There will also be training supplied for clubs.

Promote gender equality

Sally Nicholes, deputy chair of the congress, said Quilt has the potential to become “one of the great achievements to emerge from the WCFLCR”.

She said it would promote greater gender equality, prevent domestic violence and deliver systemic change.

“In the short term, we are working toward extending the programme across all rugby union playing countries,” she said. “Longer term, we hope to sign up all major sports organisations, including the international governing bodies for cricket, swimming and rowing, ahead of the next World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights scheduled for Singapore in 2020.”

The seventh congress, held at the Convention Centre in Dublin, was hosted over four days in partnership with the School of Law at University College Cork.

At the afternoon plenary session of the congress, on corporal punishment of children, Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, outlined for delegates the removal of “reasonable chastisement” as a legal defence for parents who physically punish their children.

“It is not an outright ban [on corporal punishment] and only time will tell if an outright ban is necessary,” she said.

Considerable work to be done

“We know in other countries an outright ban is really important for changing parental attitudes.”

She said there is still considerable work to be done to deal with violence in the home.

In a congress session earlier in the day, Conor O’Mahony, of University College Cork, told delegates about ongoing research into what constitutions of various countries say about children’s rights.

He is in the process of analysing constitutions and scoring them on a spectrum under headings of “visibility”, “agency” and “justiciability”. He said Ireland scored high on visibility, given the references to children in our Constitution, but low in other areas. Germany was low on visibility, but high on justiciability, he said.

Dr Nessa Lynch, an Irish academic now working at the facility of law, Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand, talked to delegates about the juvenile justice system in her adopted country.

She said between 70 and 80 per cent of children are dealt with through diversion programmes. The practice was not in place because of legislation, but had arisen through discretion. She questioned a purely “rights based” approach for children and warned of “leaving children to their rights”.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist