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RFU forced to address racism

SPOTLIGHT: Racism has been experienced by players at all levels of elite rugby in England, according to a survey published by the Rugby Football Union.

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It comes as an independent investigation found that former England centre Luther Burrell was the victim of racial abuse during his time at English top-flight club Newcastle.

Burrell, who is of Jamaican descent, said he was subjected to comments about slavery, bananas and fried chicken, adding that “racial banter” had become “normalised” among teammates.

The investigation said Burrell’s claims were true “on the balance of probability”, finding that his evidence was “reliable”.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said Burrell’s revelations had prompted Twickenham to fast-track the implementation of a strategy to promote inclusivity.

“Luther was very brave to come forward and share his experiences of racism and classism in the game and he has the continued support of the union,” Sweeney said.

“We must be clear that racism, classism or any form of discrimination has no place in rugby.”

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Research commissioned last year by the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association found that racism remains widespread.

“In every area of elite rugby – men’s and women’s, national team, clubs and academies – players had experienced some form of racism,” the study, published late Tuesday, said.

It found that classism continues to cloud rugby and “fuels an elitist perception”.

The three rugby bodies have published an “inclusion and diversity” plan for the elite game.

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“There’s no place for racism in our society or the game of rugby,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor.

“We understand the issues around us and have pledged to educate our game and implement change through the action plan that has been announced.

“As part of the action plan we can confirm that mandatory training will involve all players, coaches and staff at Premiership Rugby clubs – starting before the end of the season.”

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