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Wednesday Apr 5, 2023

RFU report finds racism 'In every area of elite rugby'

An investigation by the RFU has revealed racism at all levels of elite rugby in England and has supported allegations made by former international centre Luther Burrell.

Last year Burrell made claims of racism at Newcastle Falcons which the RFU have concluded were true in a report published on Tuesday.

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Burrell’s evidence was described as ‘reliable’ in the report although it could not definitively state that all the abuse had occurred at Newcastle apart from a Whatsapp message “Which contained a racist comment”. The report also found Burrell suffered two more incidents of verbal racist abuse.

Now that his claims have been supported publically, Burrell said “Does it provide me with a sense of closure? I believe so, yes”.

“It’s been a tough eight to 10 months. I was disappointed initially by the lack of support shown from some of my peers.

“It was as if my comments were being dismissed. It was almost like people needed proof, and now this has come out people will understand that what I was saying has been deemed to be the truth. And we can all hopefully move on and generate change. I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I’m proud of the support that I’ve had.”

Off the back of the findings sparked by Burrell, the RFU has announced the fast-tracking of its action plan, aimed to tackle discrimination across the whole of rugby union.

To create this action plan the RFU announced conclusions it had made from research conducted over the last year:

  • “In every area of elite rugby – men’s and women’s, national team, clubs and academies – players had experienced some form of racism.”
  • “Classism is an issue which affects the game and fuels an elitist perception.”
  • “Reporting of incidents of discrimination is low across the elite game.”
  • “The burden to call out poor behaviour and discrimination tends to land on under-represented groups.”
  • “Efforts by the game to respond to discrimination to date, while well intended, have been either short-lived or perceived as performative.”
  • “While there is a sense that discrimination is decreasing in the game broadly, this trend is moving at a slower pace for women and ethnically diverse communities.”

It is now hoped that the courage of Luther Burrell coupled with findings from the RFU will accelerate change in Rugby Union to ensure racism is no longer a widespread issue.

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