May 13, 2009 - 1:53PM
Embattled rugby league personality Matthew Johns has been stood down indefinitely from his on-air commitments with Channel Nine and his coaching role with NRL club Melbourne Storm.
Johns's future has been under a cloud since the ABC's Four Corners program aired allegations about his involvement in a 2002 group sex incident in New Zealand while he was playing for Cronulla.
Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell said today the decision was by mutual agreement "and in the best interests of the Nine network, the game and its supporters, Matthew Johns and his family".
"The fact is, whatever the arguments about the details of the New Zealand incident involving Cronulla players in 2002, the conduct and its aftermath was simply unacceptable, full stop," Gyngell said in a statement.
"I fully endorse [NRL chief executive] David Gallop's comments concerning the indefensible conduct of some players and the lack of respect for women and the critical focus on all stakeholders to help eradicate it from our game.
"I join with him in extending my apologies and sympathy to the young woman involved in the incident, who clearly is still distressed as a consequence."
Gyngell said Johns had agreed that the decision was in everyone's best interests.
"I have always had great regard for Matt, but he knows better than anyone that this incident has placed him in an untenable position," he said.
"To his credit he has recognised that and acted upon it."
Channel Nine has confirmed with smh.com.au that Johns will not be paid by the network while he is stood down.
The former Test star arrived at Nine's Sydney offices this morning, and was reportedly supported by manager John Fordham, wife Trish and Nine colleague Phil Gould.
His standing down was announced on Channel Nine shortly after 1pm before a statement was released by the network.
Johns was believed to be recording an interview with Tracey Grimshaw that will air on Channel Nine tonight or tomorrow night.
The Storm, for which Johns is a part-time time skills coach, released a brief statement less than 20 minutes after Channel Nine's announcement.
"Following discussions between Melbourne Storm and Matthew Johns's management earlier today, it was mutually agreed that Matthew would stand down from his part-time role with the club, indefinitely," the statement read.
The Storm said yesterday that Johns would continue his role with the club.
Johns returned to Sydney last night after being summonsed from a holiday in Western Australia by the network following the explosive ABC report.
Gallop yesterday reacted strongly to the report, which highlighted several sex scandals that have rocked rugby league in recent years.
He admitted that much of what was aired on the program was "fundamentally indefensible" and said that "violence against women is abhorrent and sexual assault and the degradation of women is just that".
Gallop had also said there was a "massive question mark" over Johns's future in the game.
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