All 12 top-flight clubs will take a stand against racism with different gestures as Premiership Rugby committed itself to making the sport more diverse and inclusive, on Wednesday.
Harlequins, Leicester and Wasps players will take a knee to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement when the Premiership season resumes this weekend.
“For the start of each game in the first round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Premiership Rugby is proud to support our clubs and players as they show respect for Black lives and racial equality,” the Premiership said in a statement.
“Time will be given before games to honour equality, under the banner of Rugby Against Racism.”
However, Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter criticised the English Premiership for failing to come up with a unified approach.
“Just dropping it on clubs and saying, ‘there you go, do what you like’ is like hanging some players out to dry,” Baxter told British media.
“I don’t know how much positive press players will get if they have a different opinion, which is something we should embrace.”
Baxter said it was important clubs strike a balance in the way they support the movement to ensure rugby does not become overly political.
“If we are going to get some balance in all of this, let’s remember: we are a sport, we are here to entertain people, let’s get back to being a sport and not trying to be a political tool,” he added.
In English football, the Premier League and Championship have led the way with a number of gestures, including players taking a knee before the kickoff of every match during a reconvened season after the COVID-19 shutdown.
A working group comprising Black representatives from all 12 Premiership clubs and former players such as England wing Ugo Monye discussed how best to show support the initiative and concluded there may not be a unified approach.
“How each of our members choose to act in relation to this moment is a matter of their personal choice,” the player group said in a statement. “We respect and defend their individual right to make that decision.”
Bath have decided to show commitment to racial equality this weekend by forming a huddle in unity shortly before kickoff, while Bristol Bears will form a heart-shaped formation before each of their remaining matches.
London Irish, Northampton and Sale will wear ‘Rugby against Racism’ T-shirts, while Saracens will sport ‘Black Lives Matter’ ones.
Exeter will also show their full support for Rugby Against Racism campaign, while Gloucester and Worcester Warriors will support the movement in a ‘V’ formation.
Meanwhile, Premiership confirmed four people from three different clubs have returned positive results in the latest round of COVID-19 testing. Of those four, one is a player and three are members of staff.