Key plank of NRL's evidence in de Belin case deemed largely irrelevant

The use of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a key justification for the Australian Rugby League Commission's decision to stand down Jack de Belin, has been deemed largely irrelevant in a blow to the defence of the governing body's new hardline stance on player behaviour.

The parties returned to the Federal Court for the second day of a hearing that will determine the legitimacy of the game's new "no-fault" stand-down policy for players charged with serious criminal offences.

The NRL was intending to show a correlation between a large drop in the NPS ratings - a measure used to show the health of the NRL's brand - and the charges against de Belin. The NPS is the construct of Kevin Alavy, the managing director of Futures Sport and Entertainment, with his data supplied in the form of an affidavit from NRL chief operating officer Andrew Abdo as part of the ARLC's defence.

Jack De Belin leaves the NSW Federal Court in Sydney at an earlier court appearance. Photo: AAP.

Jack De Belin leaves the NSW Federal Court in Sydney at an earlier court appearance. Photo: AAP.

In December of 2018, the NPS dropped by six percentage points. The drop was more significant for female fans, dropping 15 points to a score of minus-12. The ratings were derived from a survey of respondents based on one question: "Are you likely to recommend rugby league to your family and friends?"

De Belin's barrister, Martin Einfeld QC, claimed the evidence should be inadmissible as it has "no proper foundation" and was misleading when coupled with television ratings. He claimed that factors outside de Belin's police charges, including other on or off-field incidents, could have contributed to the drop in the NPS rating. The debate about the admissability of the evidence, or how much weight it should be given, continued into Tuesday morning's court session.

Justice Melissa Perry said the NPS was "incapable of bearing any probative weight" and that the "speculative nature" of the evidence meant it should be limited to helping determine how much consideration Abdo gave it as a contributor to the NRL's decision to implement its new rule.

Previously, players who pleaded not guilty to alleged offences were allowed to continue playing while the matters were dealt with in court. Under the new policy, any player charged with an offence that carries a maximum prison term of 11 years or more will be automatically stood down. de Belin, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault, was the first player suspended under a rule that Einfeld labelled "harsh" and "draconian".

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is expected to take the stand when the hearing resumes following a lunch recess on Tuesday. Abdo, Alavy and Melbourne Storm chairman Bart Campbell have also been called as witnesses.

The hearing continues.

- SMH/The Age