New Wales Women’s coach Warren Abrahams has echoed the criticism aimed at cricket by claiming that rugby is institutionally racist.
The South African became the first black appointment to the senior job with a national team in Welsh or UK rugby last week when he was installed by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Abrahams admitted that he has had to clear many obstacles on his way after starting his career in Cape Town, then moving to England and the USA.
That has given him a broad enough perspective to feel able to claim the sport has inherent problems along the same lines as those levelled at cricket recently by umpires who claimed racism had blocked their path.
“I come from South Africa and as you know we have a pretty interesting history when it comes to colour and race,” said Abrahams.
“Has there been true opportunity in this country? I wouldn’t be able pinpoint racial difficulties that I’ve faced here, but we know based on the last few months, there is institutionalised racism here and that the game (rugby) has been modelled for certain classes, without people even knowing they are doing it.
England and Wales Cricket Board accused by 2 former umpires of “institutionalised racism”, in the latest allegations to surface in English cricket.
The last BAME) umpire to be added to the ECB’s first-class list was 28 years ago. https://t.co/uTyrvOgBvY pic.twitter.com/kE0uOQgCvF
— Dan Roan (@danroan) November 17, 2020
“The most important thing is education and we have to have open conversations around these topics.
“You just have to look at the statistics. If you look at international coaches, I am probably one of two (black coaches). There are none in the Six Nations and none in the southern hemisphere, apart from South Africa.
“Those stats probably answer the question. But the most important thing for us is to not have negative conversations around this. The conversations must be positive and educational.”
All sports have had to grapple with issues of racism in recent months in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and rugby has been no exception.
As with football, the proportion of players from BAME backgrounds is far higher than the numbers involved in coaching, administration and executive positions.
That has led some to call for a form of the Rooney Rule – the NFL policy in American Football that requires all teams to interview at least one BAME candidate for coaching and other top jobs.
Abrahams has not dismissed the value of a similar policy in UK rugby, but says that any process that involves quotas is not the route to follow.
“I come from South Africa and years ago we had a quota system. It probably put us back 10 years,” he added.
“Trust me, people in my position do not want to be token gestures. I have worked incredibly hard to get to where I need to get. It’s about opportunity. That’s all we need – equality of opportunity.
“Diversity brings innovation as we see in business. All coaches I speak to, black or white, just want an opportunity, but we have to have equality around those opportunities.”