Racism seems to be on the increase in a lot of sports throughout the UK but fortunately it has never been a major problem in rugby league.
Recently an incident down under in a play off game where St Georgeís influential Anthony Mundine was involved in being allegedly abused by a fellow professional. Incidents like this puts rugby league once again under the Ďbadí spotlight and to be honest we could do without this kind of behaviour.
Rugby league has been involved in many racial disputes, for instance Billy Boston once admitted to have suffered a lot of racial abuse during his playing career, but he treated it like water off a ducks back, and didnít allow it to affect his game. Boston was involved in one major incident in 1957 that did affect him. Great Britain were due to travel to South Africa for a three test series, but the South Africans argued that if Boston was to play he would be forced to eat and sleep in different hotels than his team mates. Boston decided not to tour and if the Rugby Football League had cancelled the tour maybe racism might not be the problem it is now.
Granted it is only a minority of so-called supporters who hurl the abuse, but it is time something was done to prevent the problem increasing. Racism could also lead to crowd trouble, which could turn out like the full-blown riots occurring at the Football. So really something has to be sorted before anyone is seriously hurt.
A recent complaint about racism happened during the play-offs when Leeds entertained St Helens at Headingley. The complaint was made by then St Helens coach Shaun McRae about an alleged racist remark against a Leeds player.
McRae speaking at a press conference announced referee John Connolly had mentioned it in his report. He also said: "We asked for it to be put on report as a racial slur against one of our players. You may have noticed when Leeds scored that Anthony Sullivan ran up to the ref and asked for the incident to be put on report. The player has apologised to our player in question, but I donít think thatís good enough. This needs to be dealt with firmly and correctly."
The matter has yet to be solved, but itís up to the RFL and Leeds to find out what actually happened because we need to make sure that racism doesnít become a normal everyday item. Each club should form a campaign to try to kick out racism altogether.
We contacted the Warrington Wolves club and Chief Executive John Smith was willing to express his views on the whole situation. When asked what should be done to stop racism in rugby league Mr Smith replied: " Severe penalties such as removal from the ground and actually banned from the ground if it happens outside the ground. Clubs should also state a clear policy of non-toleration of racial abuse."
Mr Smith also went on to say: " Racism will always try to creep back in to our game as will any kind of anti- social behaviour, there is always the need to be vigilant."
As a spectator I have always believed itís the fans who mainly hurl the unnecessary abuse, Mr Smith agrees but also states: "It is mainly spectators but some players will try to use unacceptable means to unsettle an opponent."
Some players have said if a racist remark is made, it is said in the heat of the moment, personally I donít condone that if you donít want to make a racist remark keep your mouth closed. Mr Smith states that most players get on extremely well off the pitch and most racist remarks would be made in the heat of the moment.
We asked Mr Smith whether any one connected to the Warrington Wolves has ever been racially abused and what punishment should handed out to these offenders. He replied: "People have been abused but it is normally on the pitch heat of the moment occasions and as for punishment they should be handed heavy fines and if possible short and long term suspensions from the game." Mr Smith also went on to say: "Anyone attacked on a personal level can feel deeply hurt unless it is obvious it is just a momentary "heat of the moment" situation, but players are often abused for performing badly than for racial reasons."
As we see Mr Smith believes players act in the heat of the moment, but also agrees that something should be done about the abuse inflicted by a supporter. Rugby League has always been a family sport and this may change if small-minded individuals carry on abusing players just because of their skin colour, all clubs should form some campaign to stop this.
A few seasons ago a 13 point action plan for rugby league clubs to tackle racism was introduced.
Looking at this action plan not every one of these points have been used, if we are to kick racism out of our sport we need to abide by every rule given or the whole of rugby league could be affected badly.