Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Wasps will take a knee this weekend as Premiership rugby resumes, with the sport launching the ‘Rugby Against Racism’ campaign as it returns to action following a five-month hiatus.
All 12 Premiership clubs have committed to showing their opposition towards racism, though each side has been allowed to discuss and choose how they want to convey that message, while a working group has been set-up comprising a number of black players from the Premiership, as well as ex-Harlequins and England player Ugo Monye and former England Women’s Sevens coach James Bailey.
"Together, we the players stand united in the fight against racism, and we are proud to support the positive message that Black Lives Matter,” the working group said in a statement endorsed by Premiership Rugby.
“We are not endorsing a political ideology. We are uniting as players to combat racial discrimination, in our sport and in society #BlackLivesMatter.”
However, only three clubs have committed to taking a knee before kick-off this weekend, with the players of Quins, Leicester and Wasps deciding that it is the best way of showing their support for the anti-racism movement. The nine other clubs have announced varying ways to form their anti-racism gesture, ranging from standing in a heart, huddle or V formation to wearing anti-racism shirts before the game begins.
Football’s Premier League saw every player take a knee before kick-off of all 92 games that were played following the sport’s resumption, with both the England and West Indies cricket players doing the same before all three Tests of their recent series. However, the gesture has been divisive in Formula One, with 14 of the 20 drivers taking a knee before the first Grand Prix of the season last month, with that number since reducing to 13 following the two recent races at Silverstone.
Here’s how each club intends to honour the ‘Rugby Against Racism’ campaign this weekend:
Bath Rugby: Will show their commitment to Racial Equality at the weekend, forming a huddle in unity shortly before kick-off.
Bristol Bears: For every remaining league fixture this season, Bristol Bears will form a heart-shaped formation before kick-off, with the 23 players in the formation representing every player, staff member and supporter of the club. The club explain that the Bears culture is about love. "Love for our teammates and love for our community". They are honoured to represent a team and a city that is unique, diverse and multicultural. The Bears culture promotes equality and the club are fully in support of rugby against racism,
Exeter Chiefs: Exeter Chiefs are proud to be part of a fully-inclusive sport that does not discriminate against race, colour or creed. Ahead of our restart fixture against Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park, the Chiefs will be showing their full support for Rugby Against Racism.
Gloucester Rugby and Worcester Warriors: Will take the same approach for their match with both clubs supporting Rugby Against Racism and their players acknowledging the moment in a ‘V’.
Harlequins: Will be supporting Black Lives Matter with the squad taking a knee.
Leicester Tigers: Will take part in the competition-wide acknowledgement of Rugby Against Racism ahead of kick-off in Round 14. The matchday squad will, as one, take a knee during the period allocated ahead of the match getting underway.
London Irish: Will show their commitment to racial equality, when the Exiles travel to Bath this weekend. The players will wear Rugby Against Racism t-shirts in the pre-match warm-up, as well as showing their commitment shortly before kick-off at The Rec.
Northampton Saints: The Northampton Saints squad will support Rugby Against Racism when they host Wasps this Sunday at Franklin’s Gardens. The 23-man matchday squad will wear t-shirts with the message. Prior to kick-off, the players will form a circle formation which they have chosen to signify the importance of inclusivity and togetherness for everyone in the game.
Sale Sharks: Sale Sharks stand together in the face of all discrimination. To demonstrate this, the entire Sale Sharks matchday squad will be wearing ‘Rugby Against Racism’ t-shirts when the team run out this weekend at the Twickenham Stoop.
Saracens: Will show their commitment to racial equality. The players will wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts in the pre-match warm-up, as well as showing their commitment shortly before kick-off.
Wasps: Will be supporting Black Lives Matter with the squad taking a knee.
Premiership Rugby has also vowed to work towards five key points that will help to increase diversity across the sport, with the magnifying glass put on the pathways that lead to coaching, officiating and executive roles.
It will aim to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) players on the RFU Level three coach education and referee course, with directors of rugby and match officials set to assist in a mentoring role, while staff and Bame players will be sponsored as candidates for the Sporting Equals LeaderBoard programme.
They will also carry out a review of current recruitment practices to ensure that any future progress can be tracked, and will engage with current Bame players to build protocols that ensure all players from any background feel safe and protected within the sport. The successful Project Rugby campaign will also continue to offer the provision of rugby to young children from Bame backgrounds, having already introduced 13,500 to the sport in the last four years.
"Improving inclusion is vital for the progress and popularity of our sport and there is an urgent need for change,” said Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs.
“I wholeheartedly support the measures set out in our Rugby Against Racism programme, and will be making sure these measures underpin Premiership Rugby’s strategy to make a tangible positive difference in our sport and society."
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