Luther Burrell's claims of racism in rugby will be backed by the RFU

Luther Burrell’s claims of racism in rugby are set to be backed by RFU chiefs after a probe into discrimination at Newcastle Falcons… with the club urged to introduce additional training on diversity to employees

  • Luther Burrell’s claims of racism at Newcastle Falcons will be backed by the RFU 
  • They will recommend diversity and discrimination training to club employees
  • It is understood that fresh instances of racism came to light during the inquiry

Luther Burrell’s claims of racism in rugby will be backed this week when the findings from an investigation into his revelations are published.

The eight-month RFU inquiry is understood to have upheld the former England centre’s allegations after almost 100 Newcastle Falcons employees, both former and present, were interviewed.

The investigation was sparked after Burrell told The Mail on Sunday that he heard appalling comments about slavery and skin colour before his retirement last summer.

Investigators are expected to support Burrell’s experiences of racism, including the use of a racial term in a WhatsApp group understood to be used by Newcastle players. A screenshot of a message in which a player was called a ‘negro’ was submitted to the inquiry.

In one of the other incidents, a black player was told he was the son of a homeless black man who had been spotted on a night out. However, Newcastle are understood not to be disciplining any players as none of the guilty parties has been identified. Burrell submitted his testimony to the inquiry but did not name anyone. 

Luther Burrell’s (left) allegations of racism in rugby will be backed by RFU bosses this week

Investigators are set to support his experiences of racism during his time at Newcastle Falcons

An lengthy eight-month investigation into the centre’s experiences revealed multiple incidences of racism and fresh instances of discrimination came to light during the inquiry

Newcastle initially launched an internal investigation after Burrell’s interview with The Mail on Sunday, before asking the Rugby Football Union to take control of it independently. The conclusions have been drawn up by a King’s Counsel and are due to be published imminently.

It is understood that fresh instances of racism came to light during the inquiry, while several former team-mates backed up Burrell’s claims.

The report is said to recommend that the club introduces additional training for employees on the subjects of diversity and discrimination, as well as improved instructions on how to report any concerns.

Burrell liaised with the RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney and Tom Ilube, the ruling body’s chairman, during the investigation.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday last year, Burrell said: ‘Things get said in jest without any thought. Every week, every fortnight, comments about bananas when you’re making a smoothie in the morning. Comments about fried chicken when you’re out for dinner.

‘I’ve heard things that you wouldn’t have expected to hear 20 years ago. We had a hot day at training and I told one of the lads to put on their factor 50. Someone came back and said, “You don’t need it, Luth, put your carrot oil on.”

‘Then another lad jumps in and says, “No, no, no, he’ll need it for where his shackles were as a slave.”’

The RFU will recommend Newcastle run additional training on discrimination and diversity

Paolo Odogwu also backed Burrell saying he had also experienced racism during his career

Alongside the investigation into Newcastle, the RFU are conducting a wider review around diversity and inclusion. It is understood to have returned some uncomfortable findings.

At Christmas last year, Guinea-born Italy prop Cherif Traore revealed he was presented with a rotten banana during a Secret Santa at his club, Treviso.

And speaking to the The Mail on Sunday earlier this year, former Wasps and now Stade Francais centre Paolo Odogwu backed up Burrell. ‘I thought, yeah, I’ve seen things like that,’ Odogwu said.

‘It’s mental. It just becomes normal. It’s the casual comments that people think they can say, just throwing out the N-word.’

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