Jermaine Coleman calls on rugby league to do more to support BAME players

Aaron Bower
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

The only black head coach in British rugby league has called on the Rugby Football League to do more to support black, Asian and minority ethnic players following the decision not to reprimand a number of individuals over comments made on social media.

Jermaine Coleman, the head coach of London Skolars and Jamaica, made a formal complaint to the RFL after a series of posts relating to the Black Lives Matter movement were made by people within the game. The RFL subsequently confirmed it would investigate the posts, but announced last week they were deemed to not be discriminatory. Four people, though, have been instructed to undertake an educational course on the use of social media.

Related: Jermaine Coleman: 'Black people don't want a leg up. Just equality'

The RFL told the Guardian it knows it “can and must do better” in order to “eliminate” racism, and Coleman has stressed the need for the sport to step up its fight. “This is not the first time rugby league has failed to support its players on this,” he said. “The ethnic minority within the sport is dwindling year-on-year, and I hope people higher up in the RFL realise we’re not properly supporting the BAME community; we’re just operating a tick-box exercise and aren’t willing to be a frontrunner in tackling racism.”

Coleman, who will coach Jamaica at next year’s World Cup, also said he hoped people would follow his lead and speak out. “I hope I don’t have a target on my back now,” he said. “Instead I hope it shines a light on the frustration from the BAME community. We do a fantastic job with things like wheelchair rugby and inclusivity for people with disabilities, but the number of BAME people playing the game speaks volumes.”

The RFL said: “We are an honest sport and the reality is that even in our 125th year, the game is not fully representative of the communities in which it is based. It’s crucial we continue to listen and learn from the lived experiences of black players, coaches and supporters. And we are redoubling our efforts to increase the number of black and minority ethnic people involved in our sport on and off the field.”

Coleman hopes his public stance will encourage BAME players to report racism. “Speak to 95% of ethnic minority players and they will say they’ve suffered abuse at one time or another and not reported it. People don’t say anything because they feel their comments won’t get heard … this is the time for rugby league to make a change. This is a story that isn’t going to disappear, so let’s tackle it.”