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RFU bans former council member for using racial slur to black volunteer

A former Rugby Football Union council member has been banned from attending any match in England for 12 months for using a racial slur against a black volunteer during a World Cup warm-up fixture at Twickenham in August. Andrew Sarek has also been banned from carrying out any administrative duties for a year after accepting the RFU’s charge.

The incident took place after England’s World Cup warm-up victory over Wales on 12 August. According to the union’s written judgment, Sarek was introduced to the RFU volunteer, who said Sarek used the term, “not another black cunt”. In their written evidence, the volunteer also said: “In one respect I am pleased my friends were not close enough to hear this, several of them are black and would have also been deeply offended. I am beginning to feel tired of defending the people in the game of rugby.”

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Sarek, who, according to the judgment, stood down as an RFU council member for Eastern Counties five/six years ago, accepted the charge of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union/game, though claimed he said: “Oh, you’re that black cunt from NLD [Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire].” He also claimed that the comment was “crass” but not racist. In his submission, he said: “I’m ashamed to say that I said those words at the time and place stated. Although I did not intend them to be malicious or derogatory, I understand how hurtful those words must have been.

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“By way of background, I am Nigerian by birth and I have visited Nigeria several times to help develop rugby in the country. I am not a racist nor have I ever been accused of being one or for having racist views. What I said was crass and insensitive and I am very sorry for the hurt and distress I caused.”

The disciplinary judgment, however, concluded: “When the RFU presented Mr Sarek with the facts of the allegations, as we have set out above, he readily accepted that he had committed an offence. Plainly all sides agree that the words ‘Black C’ were used. We regard it is as immaterial (for our purposes) whether ‘from the NLD’ were used. It is of note that Mr Sarek did not apologise at the time. Significantly, we found that whilst Mr Sarek accepted that his words were offensive, he had no insight as to the fact that they were racist. We reject the suggestion that they were merely crass.”

The RFU is already caught up in another racism row after on Thursday lashing out at World Rugby for denying England’s Tom Curry the chance to “have his voice heard” in its decision to clear South Africa’s Bongi Mbonambi on two counts of “racially abusive behaviour” towards the flanker.

Meanwhile, in May the Guardian revealed that a distinguished former RFU council member had been banned from Twickenham for making a racist slur during a Six Nations match last year. Alex Murphy accepted a charge for saying to another volunteer: “You realise they don’t let n****** in the royal box.”

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In April the RFU concluded an investigation into discrimination in rugby and found that racism exists at every level of the game in England. The report was commissioned after the former England centre Luther Burrell said last year that racism was rife within the sport.

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The RFU council is an influential decision‑making arm of the union, comprising mainly elected representatives of their constituent bodies who are strictly speaking volunteers. The council has sign-off on a number of key decisions, including the recent change to the legal tackle height. It is the body famously referred to as “57 old farts” by Will Carling when he was the England captain.

Andrew Sarek has been contacted for comment.