sport news Rugby DOES have a racism problem, as RFU boss is set to investigate trends now
Rugby's powerbrokers have launched an investigation into racism after appalling comments about skin colour and slavery were exposed in The Mail on Sunday.
The RFU’s chief executive Bill Sweeney met Luther Burrell on Friday after the former England international shocked the sport in our exclusive interview about changing-room culture.
The revelations reached England’s camp in Perth, where skipper Courtney Lawes and prop Ellis Genge claimed racism is not ‘rife’ but called for the perpetrators to be named and shamed.
Burrell’s former club, Newcastle, have launched an investigation, after Premiership Rugby CEO Simon Massie-Taylor said he was ‘saddened and appalled’ by the revelations.
Fellow players have also shared their own experiences — including use of the N-word and a lack of black coaches — and led calls for action about elite sport’s cultural pitfalls.
‘It’s good that this conversation’s being had,’ said lock Christian Scotland-Williamson.
‘It takes someone to speak out and luckily Luther’s been willing to put his head above the parapet.
Rugby's powerbrokers have launched an investigation into racism after appalling comments
The RFU’s chief executive Bill Sweeney met Luther Burrell (pictured) on Friday after the former England international shocked the sport
England's Courtney Lawes issued an impassioned call for rugby union to help 'squash' racism
‘In the locker room, there’s such a fine line between what’s banter and what has more racial undertones.
'Some of the behaviour is culturally insensitive but people don’t realise because there’s a lack of awareness. Rugby’s a microculture.
'There’s definitely a mould, especially in England, where you go to private school, play on the private school circuit, play county, play regional and maybe play for England.
‘It’s so formulaic in how you make it as a rugby player. More often than not you’re forced to fit in and people who stand out aren’t made one of the tribe.
The former England international shocked the sport in our exclusive interview in the Mail
The RFU were urged to investigate Burrell's racism claims after his exclusive interview
‘At schoolboy level, the staple is that you get off the bus and see a black winger and someone says, “I bet he’s rapid but can’t catch”. That’s the staple.
‘All the kids in rugby come from the same expensive schools. If you’ve got a private school guy who has only ever played with a team full of white guys then they might not be able to see the no-fly zones.
'They might not have a perception of what is acceptable. A lot of it is ignorance. The banter might be well-intentioned humour but it’s so off the mark.
‘Ultimately, because you’re the minority you might laugh it off when in reality you’re fuming. In their environment they haven’t seen it and it might just seem like something that happens in films.
RFU apologised to the former England international after claims racism was 'rife' in sport
Burrell received an apology after he revealed he shocked the sport with his claims
‘My brother got a ticket for loitering in a train station while he was waiting for a train. A lot of people in rugby haven’t got that life experience. You live in a bubble, see the same people, have the same conversations. There are no uncomfortable conversations because nothing happens that prompts those conversations.
‘People go through their career thinking a joke they made every week is funny because everyone is laughing, but they go into the real world and realise they can’t say stuff like that.
‘I won’t name names but a senior member of one of my clubs referred to an Irish player as a bomb slinger. Racism is racism, whatever race or culture. I was 21 at the time so I couldn’t say anything but I still think about that comment eight years later. The lines are blurred because people think it’s banter when it’s not.’
Burrell’s story has been shared by some of the sport’s leading advocates for social change, including Ugo Monye and Ashton Hewitt. And the RFU issued an apology to those who have experienced discrimination within the