The Rugby League Players’ Association will support legal action from NRL players who believe their privacy has been abused or if they’ve been subject to an extortion attempt, CEO Ian Prendergast says.
The move from the RLPA comes after consultation with The Australian Athlete’s Alliance, the peak body for the country’s elite professional sportspeople, about the increasing trend of illegally obtained footage being shopped around to media outlets.
Last week footage of Parramatta playmaker Corey Norman and an unnamed Brisbane player was offered to networks for a large sum but was turned down.
The RLPA is determined to take a hardline stance on the issue amid concerns over abuses of players’ privacy and to discourage members of the public attempting to obtain such footage.
The RLPA would have supported Mitchell Pearce in any attempt to sue following his Australia Day drama after footage of the drunken halfback was obtained at a private party without his permission and aired without his consent.
However the body understood Sydney Roosters halfback Pearce was reluctant to follow that path and put himself under further public scrutiny.
Any such court action would be a test case under the Anti-Surveillance Act, which aims to protect the privacy of individuals.
Legal opinion is divided over how the Act would be applied, Prendergast said the RLPA would back any court action against practices it feels are illegal.
“We are concerned with the apparent trend regarding people being filmed without their knowledge and this footage then being shopped around and, on occasions, published via social and traditional media,” Prendergast told AAP on Monday.
“This conduct is on the face of it illegal, so it is important in our view that this area of the law is reviewed to ensure the basic privacy rights of all citizens are protected. In particular those who may be the target of extortion and/or attempts to ruin their reputation through the use of illegally obtained footage due to their public profile.
“We are certainly happy to assist any of our members who wish to explore their legal options around these issues in the future.”
Prendergast was keen to point out the majority of players were meeting the standards expected of them and that the NRL’s education programs were having a positive impact in terms of making players aware of their responsibilities and the pitfalls of their celebrity status.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson on Sunday called on the NRL and RLPA to do more to protect the rights of players. It was a sentiment Prendergast agreed with.
“As a game I believe we need to show more leadership by not only holding players to high standards but by also discouraging these illegal practices,” he said.