Ex-England international said he has closure
An RFU investigation has found Luther Burrell’s claims of racism in the sport to be true, leaving the former England centre with a sense of closure.
The RFU report published on Tuesday found that “on the balance of probability” Burrell’s claims were true and his evidence “reliable”, however no individuals were named following the inquiry that was started by his last club Newcastle Falcons before it was taken over by the English game’s governing body.
After leaving Newcastle, Burrell, 35, said in June 2022 that racism was “rife” in rugby union and that racist “banter” had become “normalised”.
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Burrell told BBC Sport: “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.”
An eight-month investigation saw 93 Newcastle Falcons employees interviewed with the report finding at least two others supported Burrell’s allegations. Employees reported a “brutal banter” culture and almost all staff confirmed there had been no diversity training.
The RFU has also published research which found racism at every level of elite rugby and says Burrell’s claims have prompted them to fast-track a new inclusion strategy and plan to tackle discrimination.
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The research concluded: “Rugby is by its nature an inclusive sport. However, discrimination and experiences of exclusion remain. The research found that in every area of elite rugby, players had experienced some form of racism.
“The burden to call out poor behaviour and discrimination tends to land on under-represented groups. Efforts to respond to discrimination to date, while well intended, have been either short-lived or perceived as performative.”
RFU racism investigation: CEO’s response
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “Luther was very brave to come forward and share his experiences of racism and classism in the game.
“To embed the change we all want to see following Luther’s frank and disturbing feedback to us about his experiences, requires collective action from all the major stakeholders in the English game.
“The findings from our research into racism and classism in rugby union have been revealing and have hardened our resolve to address and remove these forms of discrimination and experiences from our game and put inclusion at its very heart.”
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