Luther Burrell: Former Newcastle Falcons player speaks out on racism claims following investigation

An independent investigation into allegations of racism at Newcastle Falcons has found that claims made by former player Luther Burrell were true on the balance of probability.

Burrell first made claims that he had been victim of racial abuse while playing at Kingston Park in summer 2022.

He said he was subjected to comments regarding slavery, bananas and racial slurs. The former Falcons centre claimed racial comments at the club had become "normalised".

An investigation by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) concluded the allegations made are true on the balance of probability, but the report found there was "insufficient evidence" to say whether every allegation made by Burrell happened at the Falcons.

A private WhatsApp group was confirmed to have contained a racist comment.

Burrell said he believes he can "evolve the sport" with the help of the RFU and Premiership clubs Credit: PA

The report say Burrell's evidence was reliable and added that on the basis of the findings, the RFU should consider a disciplinary investigation - though this should be balanced against how it could impact on Burrell for speaking out.

It also recommends the club provides "additional training and education for its staff in relation to equality, diversion and inclusion, whistle-blowing harassment, bullying, active bystander and safe social media use."

Speaking to ITV News, Burrell said: "I've not got no closure. How am I going to get closure from this? It's just not gonna happen. and this has been going on for 30 years plus. It's been going on for a long time. It's taken me to take a stance, with the backing of the community."

"People within the sport have they supported me? They haven't. Do I feel let down by it? It's tough isn't it. Did I expect more? I guess I didn't... I guess I didn't."

The Falcons said it's "incredibly disappointing to learn that any individuals have ever felt subject to discriminatory behaviour". Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The report also recommends that the Falcons provide additional training and education for its staff and tightening up of whistleblowing - thought it says the club has already 'made a lot of progress in this area' since the allegations were made.

Instances like those highlighted in the report are often dismissed as 'banter' - but campaigners say that culture needs to change. Fred Harms from Show Racism The Red Card said "to almost bat it off as banter can be extremely damaging".

"I think the terminology banter is used to downplay the experiences of individuals who've felt like something was racist.

"It can often blur the lines of what is acceptable and what is not. Obviously, we know racism is unacceptable but if you attach 'banter' to it and it almost gets a glossier approach to it.

"Often with the use of the word banter it creates a culture where incidents just aren't reported, cos people think they might not be taken seriously and that's similar to what's happened in this incident now."

Luther Burrell won 15 caps for England during his career. Credit: PA

In a statement released on their website, Newcastle Falcons said: "We do not tolerate discrimination of any nature within our business, and we are committed to ensuring that any allegations of this nature are taken seriously."

It went on to say: "As a club we have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy in place, any breach of which would qualify as a serious disciplinary matter.

"We have delivered ED&I training to all our employees, have bystander training sessions scheduled for all employees and are committed to annual refresher training.

"We are also in discussion with the RFU about training that will be provided more widely across the sport and our owner has met with Luther to further discuss how we can all work together more closely to ensure rugby is a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone."

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