Sports committee to consider funding IRFU, GAA and FAI on basis of ’ethics’

Three main sports codes to be asked before Oireachtas in wake of Belfast rape trial

On March 28th Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of raping a woman in Belfast in 2016.   Photographs: Niall Carson/PA Wire

On March 28th Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of raping a woman in Belfast in 2016. Photographs: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The IRFU, GAA and FAI will be invited to attend the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport to discuss ethics and behaviour on and off the pitch in the wake of the Belfast rugby rape trial.

Sport Ireland, the statutory agency that promotes and plans for the development of sport nationally, will also be invited before the committee.

Sports Ireland also oversees organisations that do not have the membership levels of the three major sporting codes – GAA, rugby and soccer.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said it was appropriate to have the major sporting bodies in when the atmosphere was less charged, following the nine-week trial that convulsed Irish society.

Ms Murphy, a member of the committee said “we have to learn lessons from that rape trial”.

The Kildare North TD said the discussion would include policy changes in relation to how sports organisations are funded by the State, on the basis of the implementation of codes of ethics.

‘Valid’

It is “absolutely valid” to invite in the main organisations to talk about the improvements that can be made to ensure best practice and behaviour, including in their attitudes to women and girls, she said.

She expected the committee discussion with the organisations to include the terms and conditions of athletes’ contracts.

“No doubt they would have something about not bringing the sport into disrepute,” but the details of those contracts are an important element, she said.

In the same way that training in the safeguarding of children is an important part of sporting codes, introducing positive attitudes in sport needs to be “brought in from the get go, when children join sports clubs”.

On March 28th Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of raping a woman in Belfast in 2016.

Sponsors

Details of the trial including WhatsApp messages between the players and their friends had been raised by corporate sponsors and women’s rights activists.

The contracts of the two rugby players were revoked in the aftermath of the case, following a review by the IRFU and Ulster rugby.

Ms Murphy said sport was such a positive aspect of society and had great potential as a beneficial influence.

“Where there are negative things about sport, such as off-pitch behaviour, you have got to have changes in the way organisations operate.”

Good behaviour should be rewarded on a structured basis and not in an ad-hoc fashion, she said.