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OTAGO RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION.

A special meeting of the Otago Rugby Football Union was held iu the City Hotel on Saturday night. Mr J. M'Rae Gallaway (president) occupied the chair, and there were about thirty delegates present. The Chaibman stated that the first business the meeting was called upon to consider was the question of the right of the New Zealand Union i to inquire into and adjudicate upon charges against an Otago player, that right being claimed by the local Committee. By-law No. 10 reaa that "In all cases of misconduct by individual players or officials of clubs or teams,, travelling <r otherwise, inquiry shall be held by the Union directly interested" By-law 11 said: '' All decisions come to must be at once reported to the secretary of the New Zealand Union, and, failing receipt within a fortnight of an appeal aoobmpanied by a deposit of £5, should the appeal not bo sustained any punishment accorded by-the local Unioa shall be made general throughout the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Union.'' Jhe Committee of the Rugby Union thought that under the circumstances it would not be right of the Committee to endorse the suspension of Harris without consulting the delegates in the matter. It appeared to the Committee that under the bylaws of the N.Z.U. the pioper tribunal to try Harris was the 0.R.F.U., and if the Committee had endorsed* the suspension of Harris without consulting the delegates it might very properly have been said that the Committee had waived the right which belonged to the Union. Mi J. H. Chapman said his opinion was that neither the Otago Union nor the N.Z.U. had any right whatever to interfere in the matter of disqualification of a player for misconduct off the field. He knew of no by-law on the game that gave power to disqualify a player except for misconduot on the field. Tho N.Z.U., no doubt, were right in saying, if the charge was proved, that Harris Bhould not again represent the colony in an intercolonial match, and that, he contended, was all the" power they had in the matter. Speaking for his own olub, he said that had club games been played in Dunedin at the time the Union team would have played Harris as a protest against the decnion of the N.Z.U., and allowed the proper body to have dealt with hia case. It was not known whether the man had had an opportunity of meeting his accusers. It had always been the practice of the O.R.F.U. to bring the accuser and the accused person before a meeting. He was subject to correction, but he had been told that the Otago players of the New Zealand team knew nothing about Harris having been reported to the central body until they reached Christchurch. The point was whether the O.R.F.U. or the N.Z.U. had any power to interfere in the matter beyond faying that the man should not represent the colony again. The procedure was wrong and very unfair. Mr Platts said he thought the by-laws themselves were a sufficient answer to the last speaker's remarks. It was very clearly stated in by-law 10 that in all cases of misconduct by players travelling or otherwise inquiry should be held by the Union directly interested. That did not mean misconduot on the field only. Harris and the other men in question were in charge of the N.Z.U. They were under the control of officers appointed by that body, and therefore the Union directly interested was the N.Z.U. The speaker did not agree with the chairman that this Union was called upon to endorse the disqualification placed upon these men. Ihe Chairman : I did not say so. I said we endorse the disqualification, but before doing so we decided to consult the delegates. Mr Platts : But they asked you to endorse their action. I will move that this meeting endorses the action of the N.Z.U. Mr A. Wilson seconded the motion. It seemed to him that in drafting the by-laws of 'the N.Z.U. a case of the kind now before the meeting was not foreseen by the men who drew up the by-laws. It appeared to be an extremely light course that the N.Z.U., which was solely responsible for the team, should have the entire responsibility'of the men during the time their power lasted, and part of the responsibility was that of punishing any member of the team for misconduct during the course of the tour. Another thing that occurred to him was that in the case of a player in an intercolonial team tho central body was really tho only Union that was in a proper position to get the whole evidence of the case. If the local Union in such a case attempted to deal with the matter as affecting their own man it would not be in a central enough position to gather all the evidence, which must to a large extent be obtained from those who accompanied and managed the team. Although he was of the opinion that, according to the reading of the by-laws, the N.Z U. had not technically the right to disqualify the payers, that only" happened through a sheer accident. The head body ought to have the right to disqualify the players, and therefore it would be a step calculated to injure football if the local Union interfered with the course of justice in this case. It ought to be a question of great moment with them. He did not agree with Mr Chapman that the N.Z.U. had no jurisdiction except on the field. It seemed to him that the field, in this case meant from the time the team left Wellington uutil it came back again. Durinp that time iho New Zealand Union paid the expenses, and the team was under their control. It would have been negligence on their part to have allowed the charges to pass unnotioed. He did not know what the charge was, hut apparently it was a serious one, and the N.Z.U.had evidence before them that seemed to satisfy them on the point. If this Union had a mere technical point on their side he did not think they should interfere with the judgment on that account. The discomfort he had in seconding a motion of this kind was a doubt as to whether Harris received a perfee'ly fair trial—(hear, hear)—because he could not understand how it was possible to give a man a perfeotly fair trial unless he was brought face to face with his accusers. It was very difficult to do those kind of things in writing. Harris was in Dunedin and his acousers in Wellington. They had the ears of all those who were sitting in judgment against him, and Harris could only represent his case in writing. Mr Cohen thought that the by-laws were purposely framed in their present form to enable the central body to oheck any misoonduct on or off the field. His voice would always he raised in support of any constituted body whioh attempted to put down misbehaviour at once.— (Hear, hear.) It was because he did not know the nature of the offence, and because he did not know the evidence which supported the oharge, that he was unable to support the di°analifloation, and he would move—"That this Union declines to take any action in this matter until it is placed in possession of theevidonoe on which the N.Z.U. based their judgment." Whilst it was perfeotly oorreot, as Mr Wilson put It, that the central Union should be armed with power to inflict punishment if. the local Union failed to do justice to their complaint, he thought the oharge in the first instance should be forwarded to the looil Union, and they should .deoide as to how far the evidence supported the The answer made by the N.Z.U. that they did not feel disposed to forward the evidence because it was confidential—was pure after-thought, because they could easily have asked this Union to treat it in the same way. He thought .the delegates would be asserting a principle if they declined to take any action in the matter until they had means of knowing on what grounds the disqualification was based, or whether the party accused had ordinary British fair play.

Mr Platts ; I am qiiite agreeable to have my motion amended in this direction; that this Union will endorse the action of the N.JJ.IF. provided the evidence is submitted. Mr "Wilson : And,is satisfactory. Mr Platts : Well —if satisfactory. You cannot assume that a body of men would treat men in suoh a way unless the evidenoe was satisfactory. Mr Chapman: Query. Mr Cohen : I cannot accept the motion in the cew form, for the simple reason that I think the Committee should first of all know what the evidence is before they are asked to express an opinion. It is putting the cart before the horse.

Mr Platts : Very well; I will let it stand as |Mb. ' ' '' 1 Mr G. Stzphensgn seconded the amendment.

Mr Chapman said that some of the speakers appeared to think that he thought a player should not be punished for misoonduot either offoronthe field..-He did not want them to run away with that idea. Neither under the rules of the' game nor any other rules had the N.Z.TJ. power to say that a man should not play for Ms own Union for misconduct off the field. The N.Z.U. Bad no right to interfere with the

powers of a local Union. They could say that Harris ahoald not represent them, but they could not eay he should not represent his club Of course it was simply folly to play a man after lie had been disqualified, and if the speaker had his way of it he would not play him, because to do so might bring the club into disgrace and bad odor with the public. He thought tho N.Z. ••. had placed themselves in a comer by asking the Otago Union to endorse the disqualification, as the local Union, before endorsing a disqualification, had a right to tee the evidence in connection with the case. He would liko to say that the local Committee themselves should have taken the bull by the horns aud said " We will not disqualify the players." , Mr J. Dcnoan, a member of the New Zealand team, said that In could not understand how the N.Z.U. found H*rns guilty of misconduct on the Friday night without asking Armit and himself to give evidence. Out of twenty men there was only five of them stopping in the hotel where the misconduct was alleged to have taken place. He did not know anything about the Sunday charge, but from what he heatd there was very little in if. Mr R. D. Isaacs wished to reply to the last remark in Mr Chapman's speech by saying- that the Committee had "done their duty by demanding their rights. •Mr Chapman : They seemed' to want a little support. m Mr Isaacs : The delegates were called together in order that they might back up the Committee, Mr Young asked if Mr Duncan had been requested to give evidence. • Mr Duncan •. No. Mr Young: I think that is all the more reason why we should ask them to forward the evidence.—(Hear, hear.) Mr Campbell said although he was quite sure that under their by-laws the N.Z.U. had no power to hold an inquiry, he thought that the loc»l Union should be satisfied in asking them to forward the evidence on which Harris was suspended. If the evidence was satisfactory to the Committee they would endoiso the diiquahfication, and he was.quite suie the delegates would approve of the Committee's action. Ihey were asked to disqualify the men simply because the N.Z.U. said they must do it. if the N.Z.U. said the evidence was confidential, surely the evidence from one Union to another was confidential too. Supposing the Otugo Union had at the time declined to endorse the disqualification there would have been no visits from Canterbury and Wellington. The amendment was carried by a laree majority. *

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971004.2.3

Bibliographic details

OTAGO RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION., Issue 10436, 4 October 1897

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2,020

OTAGO RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION. Issue 10436, 4 October 1897

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