Telstra brand ‘ruined’ by NRL’s summer from hell
Telstra complained its brand was being ruined by the NRL's "summer from hell" and demanded a crackdown on players behaving badly, court documents reveal.
The claims were made in the response filed by the NRL on Tuesday into Jack de Belin's Federal Court appeal filed over the no-fault stand down policy.
The NRL introduced its no-fault stand down policy on December 13, which forced de Belin off the field because he is currently going through the courts on an aggravated sexual assault in company charge.
De Belin lost his legal challenge against the no-fault stand down policy in June and filed an appeal in the Federal Court against Judge Melissa Perry's decision.
In his appeal de Belin argued the judge was wrong by finding the public and media would think, despite the presumption of innocence, that de Belin sexually assaulted the complainant.
In its response the NRL argued that when players are charged with offences it has a negative effect on its brand.
"Between 2015 and 2018 an NRL player was implicated in an off-field scandal every 22 days," the NRL submission reads.
"This problem has worsened again over the 2018 off-season, with a string of high-profile players accused of serious acts of violence and misconduct against women, leading it to be branded the 'summer from hell'.
"One of those players was the appellant, Jack de Belin, Mr De Belin was charged with aggravated sexual assault in company on 13 December 2018, but the full panoply of allegations against him was only revealed on 12 February 2019."
The submission states NRL's major sponsor Telstra told the governing body its brand was being ruined by the governing body not cracking down on players behaving badly.
"Telstra - the naming rights sponsor of the NRL having a week earlier privately complained of reputational damage to their brand and demanded tough action publicly congratulated the NRL 'on their strong stance, reflecting community standards and moving closer to the values that Telstra upholds'," the submission reads.
However, the submission goes on to deny claims Telstra told the NRL to "automatically stand down any player facing charges".
"Rather, the evidence was that Telstra encouraged the NRL to set up a more 'simplified and structured' approach to player indiscretions, and inquired as to why the NRL did not stand down accused players," the submission reads.
The submission also reveals sponsors Youi and NIB contacted the NRL about off-field incidents at the time.