Ojo and Brown guilty of misconduct
Thursday 10 July 2008
Two England rugby union players have been reprimanded and fined after being found guilty of misconduct during last month's tour of New Zealand.
Mike Brown and Topsy Ojo were each fined £1,000 by the Rugby Football Union on Thursday.
The disciplinary investigation reprimanded them for staying up all night and warned them against putting themselves in "any compromising situations."
David Strettle and Danny Care were cleared.
All four had been named by British media as being at the center of sexual misconduct allegations involving an 18-year-old woman in Auckland.
She made no formal complaint to New Zealand police, and the RFU found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
"This case has thus boiled down to no more than errors of judgment by young players on their first or second major international tour, which are insufficient in themselves to effect future England selection," RFU disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett wrote. "No doubt in the past, England players on tour have stayed out too late, drunk excessive quantities of alcohol, invited guests back to the team hotel and missed physiotherapist appointments or training the next morning.
"Such activity is now inconsistent with the life of an elite professional rugby player in the modern era and with membership of a team seeking to be the best in the world."
Blackett found that Brown and Ojo, along with other unnamed players, met the woman in a bar in the early hours of Sunday, 15 June and she accompanied them back to the team hotel some time after 7 a.m.
She was alone with Brown in his bedroom until he left at 8:35 a.m for a physiotherapist appointment for which he was 20 minutes late.
Then, Ojo was alone in the room with her when he went to check if Brown went to the appointment.
Care and Strettle "popped their heads round the unlocked interconnecting door of the room at about 0855 and saw Ojo with the complainant. They were there for no more than a few seconds."
Blackett concluded that New Zealand police were "injudicious" to issue statements about the incident when no formal complaint had been made.
"It led to and generated unhelpful press speculation which took on a life of its own," he said.
Blackett also said players should be alert to the growing interest in rugby.
"(Players) will increasingly become part of the celebrity culture and have to live with the pitfalls which accompany such a lifestyle," he said. "There is clearly a need for a tighter rein on players when they are on England duty and they all need to be given clear guidelines about the limits of acceptable behavior.
"This is most important in relation to very young players who do not yet have the life skills to cope with sudden stardom."
Blackett concluded that the RFU should reconsider allowing the media to stay in the same hotel as the players.
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