Burrell Experiences Closure After Rugby Football Union Confirms Racism Allegations


Luther Burrell, a former England centre, is saying he is “proud” and has “a sense of closure” after a Rugby Football Union (RFU) investigation found his claims of racism in the sport were true. According to the report – in which no individuals were named – the RFU said Burrell’s evidence was found to be “reliable”.

The evidence collected by the investigation indicated two additional incidents of verbal racist abuse Burrell suffered apart from a player’s WhatsApp message “which contained a racist comment”. These incidents were said to have taken place on a night out and another away fixture, though the club had no access to the WhatsApp group and the incidents were said to have occurred during his time with the Newcastle Falcons.

The investigation noted its “concern over the lack of training” the Newcastle club had received with regards to equality, diversity and inclusion policies. Burrell is of Jamaican descent and discussed in June 2022 that there had been “normalised” banter among team-mates and that racism was “rife” in the sport. He said when speaking on the findings that to call anyone a slave is not funny, and this was “abhorrent behaviour” that affected him “as a human and a father”.

The RFU has fast-tracked the publication of a new strategy to promote inclusion in the elite game, as well as having published the findings of research which showed “players had experienced some form of racism” in every area of elite rugby.

When Burrell was asked why he had not identified those responsible, he said that this was not “about retribution” and that it was “about me finally having my voice heard”. He also said that this was “ultimately not about me” and was more about creating generational change in rugby union.

Following the investigation, the RFU considered launching a further disciplinary inquiry, but instead chose to “continue to work with the club” to improve training and whistleblowing processes. Burrell said he will be “keeping a close eye” on how the club evolves, as they have already implemented new structures to further tackle issues of racism.

The RFU chief executive, Bill Sweeney said Luther was “very brave” for sharing his experiences and it “requires collective action” to remove discrimination from the game and put “inclusion at its heart”.

Burrell has had a career spanning across multiple clubs, starting off at Leeds Carnegie then moving on to Sale Sharks, where he was until 2012, and then moving to Northampton Saints where he had a successful run of seven years, winning the 2013-14 Premiership and making fifteen appearances for England, before switching codes to rugby league’s Warrington Wolves, and returning to union with Newcastle in 2020.