ID system to foil rugby grade-hoppers

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 09:12 30/08/2014

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A photo identification tracking system may soon be rolled out in Canterbury schoolboy rugby to curtail the use of ineligible players.

Canterbury Rugby Football Union (CRFU) community rugby general manager Tim Gilkison said there had been "a handful" of breaches in age-group grades this season but the union was eager for greater transparency.

It could look to trial the idea next season or bring it in fully, he said. Breaches mainly occurred at the finals stage of the competition where lower grade sides bolstered their team with a player from a higher section.

"Unfortunately, there's a few who try to bend the rules a bit. As a consequence, we have to look at this and other methods of checking and ensuring everyone's above board," Gilkison said.

The photo ID system has proved a success since being used in the under-20 and under-21 grades in Auckland.

Players were photographed at the start of the season and their image saved into the rugby union's database.

Each player's photograph appeared on team sheets during the season, with their name and ID number. This made it easier to ascertain whether an ineligible player was appearing under another name.

A Privacy Commission spokesman said the parents of young players would need to be fully- informed before photos were taken.

"There are some basic elements to bear in mind, such as being open with players and parents about the fact that the photo database is being compiled and what it will be used for," he said.

"Will the collection of player photos be compulsory, for instance? Will there be consequences for refusing?"

Gilkison said an ID system would not be too difficult to set up. Many schools already took students' photos as part of their enrolment process and the CRFU database of registered players had the capacity to include photos.

School and clubs would need to take the photos and upload them into the system, which would require education and co- operation.

"Logistically, for a big union like us, it'd be a big step," Gilkison said.

"Provided it wasn't too onerous on them, everybody sees it as a potentially positive development to ensure things are fair and on a level playing field."

The existing system was not foolproof and teams could sneakily play someone under another player's name, he said.

Teams were deducted their winning competition points or playoff spot if they were caught out.

Christchurch Boys' High School has used a photo ID system for rugby players for the past 10 years.

The school's rugby co- ordinator, Stephen Dods, was in favour of the union doing likewise.

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"It's a must. We've got to build a history of each player in the province, so that we can track them right through the teams," he said.

"We really need a robust tracking and administration system online."

Canterbury secondary schools rugby chairman Brian Le Vaillant said the concept had merit.

It would also make it easier for representative selectors attending games to identify players.

"The advantages of it are probably greater than the disadvantages. If that's the case, we should probably look at moving and trialling it," he said.

- The Press

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