Initiations, racism and homophobia – Rugby’s Dirty Secret?

Last week saw a number of players, coaches and officials from Howe Of Fife banned after an “initiation” ceremony on a team bus went horribly wrong.

Scottish Rugby’s Chief Executive Mark Dodson said: “The behaviour of those involved in this incident, including several individuals in positions of authority at the club, was completely unacceptable.

“Scottish Rugby has been proactive to ensure a full, independent disciplinary process was conducted and that measures are put in place to deliver a change of culture at the club.

“The actions of those involved have absolutely no place in our sport. Significant sanctions have been applied in this matter and Scottish Rugby will not hesitate to take action against any club, official or player behaving in a similarly unacceptable manner.”

In October this year the RFU issued a statement saying it planned to crackdown on initiation ceremonies in university teams which are contributing to an estimated 10,000 players dropping out between school and university rugby.

Elsewhere in rugby a professional player was banned for using a racial slur on the field of play, Nigel Owens and Gareth Thomas have both been open about homophobic abuse and fans of one of the top clubs in England wear racially insensitive costumes. Often these things are too easily dismissed as “banter” but we want to hear about your experiences of behaviour in rugby to find out whether these are isolated incidents or the tip of the iceberg.

Please answer as honestly and openly as you can. All responses are anonymous. The survey works best on computers and tablets. If you are using a mobile device try rotating your phone and this should allow you to answer all the questions or visit

We’ll reveal the results of our survey in the next few weeks.



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21 comments on “Initiations, racism and homophobia – Rugby’s Dirty Secret?

  1. Angerine on

    Well done Cammy, a really important and valuable topic. There is a lot of stuff about the game we love that needs a light shone on it, and it’s great that the blog is taking it’s role in that seriously.

  2. Andrew McGavin on

    Hi Cammy, well done for bringing this up.

    There’s no ‘Continue’ button after Qu 24 so I couldn’t finish the questionnaire.

  3. Ruth Miller on

    I would like to say how equal pay seems to be excluded in the rugby world. I have a daughter who is on the SRU pathway and her full intentions are to play rugby at professional level. She’s 15 and finds it disgusting the pay difference between the sexes. I know this is a global sport issue but why does the rugby world act like sheep

    • Cammy Black on

      It’s an interesting issue. I think the SRU have lagged behind significantly with the women’s game but are slowly catching up. Only option post academy at moment is to go to France at the moment I think for most graduates

    • One O Clock Gun on

      I sense your frustration and my answer will not help. Equal pay between the sexes is an issue in most professions,I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am saying it is a bigger issue, and complex. What is more not all males are paid equally even in the SRU owned pro sides and I am not talking about a difference of a small margin. Why would number 1 to 23 all command a different salary! So I can imagine that even in a female side the same would apply. With that logic , pay in rugby will never be equal regardless of gender.

      • Alanyst on

        Well, there’s a big difference between “earned” inequality, i.e. being better at something and/or worth more to the business, and imposed or systematic inequality, i.e. being of different gender, race, sexuality and so on…The former is completely acceptable in my view, whereas the latter is not acceptable, although there are complex feedbacks between the two.

        The unfortunate issue with women’s sport in particular is that (with a few exceptions) few people seem much less willing to pay a fortune for the privilege of watching it – the product, whatever its qualities, is a harder sell.

        I don’t think “equal” pay is warranted by right – if the product is not as sellable, and makes less money, then why should those that make it be paid the same?

        The emphasis should be on improving the product quality and its marketing, i.e. fixing the problem. Forcing equality on a weaker market compounds dependency on “big brother” and is detrimental in the long run.

        Work obviously needs to be done to provide an opportunity for the product to be improved (i.e. by developing talent and by providing good matches at good times in the right places to draw a paying crowd). This is the job of the infrastructure providers: Unions and World Rugby, but pay is the clubs’ business.

  4. JohnMc on

    Thanks, Cammy. Good advice. By the way, sorry for addressing you as ‘Cammy of the Blog’. Had a brainstorm mid-draft and forgot your second name.

  5. Ade on

    I think this is a useful survey, just to get a rough handle on what sort of behaviour is going on. As a junior playing in the Lothians, progressing to 2nd/3rd XV before moving to the Borders as a student there were occasional games, mainly based around alcohol, but I never felt pressured to take part, and remember clearly that players who demurred were allowed to do so with minimal impact.
    Upon moving to Manchester the club I pitched up at had apparently had a problem with behaviour on away trips a year or so before I got there, but this had been dealt with by the players, and I never saw anything untoward in the 2 seasons I was there. Since 96 I have played, captained 3rd XV, acted as fixture and club secretary, and now coach mini’s for a very sociable and friendly club in Nottingham, and again, no pressure to join in with silly games or activities. An opposing Mini’s coach did get abusive towards coaches, parents and players, and was sanctioned and removed by their club, which was very heartening to see.
    Racism – the ethnic mix in West Lothian and the Borders 25-30 years ago meant this never really raised it’s head. The player pool has been far greater in Nottingham – to the extent that the club has played a regular end of season English vs Rest of World fixture – but aside from the occasional “tight Jock” comment racism is not a problem I have encountered. With the Mini’s, my eldest would happily call out anything he felt was picking on one of his team mates just because they were “different”, and I would encourage that mindset.

    If there is one thing I have seen throughout my rugby “career” it is low level, background homophobic language, at all levels. Comments about being a jessie or playing like a girl when someone misses a tackle sort of thing, or remarks made because someone has worn a fashionable shirt. When people have been challenged it has stopped, but it is always rumbling below.
    Again, the kids age groups are less likely to tolerate it, especially when the age group I coach is about 25/30% girls. I hope it is one of these things where as demographics change then social attitudes will too.

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