By Todd Balym May 12, 2009 NRL chief executive David Gallop has defended the ongoing role of Cronulla chairman and NRL board member Barry Pierce, after Pierce failed to punish players who were the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct in 2002. Pierce was chairman of the NRL club when several Sharks players were investigated and cleared of sexual assault in Christchurch seven years ago. He was elected to the NRL board in 2004. The incident has come to light again after ABC's Four Corners program on Monday night screened a report on rugby league sex scandals. The report interviewed the woman involved in the Cronulla incident, who claimed she was left suicidal after the encounter with players, including former Sharks five-eighth Matthew Johns. No Cronulla players were punished by the club after police concluded their investigation. "Barry, like many others will have taken on board the lessons from that episode," Gallop said. "I'm sure he's been part of learning some new protocols around these issues since 2002. I don't think he would sit here today and say that he now feels entirely comfortable with his approach back then." Gallop said that Cronulla's strong action against players in the past two seasons was a sign that Pierce and the Sharks board had changed their tune with regards to player behaviour. The club stood down and then released star Greg Bird prior to being convicted for assaulting his girlfriend in 2008. The Sharks also fined halfback Brett Seymour $20,000 and stood him down from two NRL games this year when vision of him being drunk and tackling a female were aired on television. "His club in recent times, as we see, have taken very strict action against players who have misbehaved at that club,"Gallop said. "I'd like to think they are an example of a club that has got on board with the cultural change that we are trying to implement." Pierce did not immediately return calls. Gallop was adamant the NRL should not assume full control of all matters involving misbehaving footballers, despite the fact that Cronulla failed to punish players seven years ago. "The relationship between clubs and players is grounded on discipline," he said. "They are the employers of the players and they need to be given first opportunity to set standards in their own organisations," "But certainly as we have seen the league has an ability to come in in an over-reaching sense where we feel that the action taken by clubs is inadequate and we will continue to do that." http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,25469051-23210,00.html ------------------------------------------------------- Dan - Got "Forbidden access" message again when trying to submit this article through Articles-Submit Article.