As a voice within the Black community in the sport we firmly believe that Luther Burrell’s experience, and the subsequent crisis rugby has found itself in, must not become a wasted opportunity to bring about much needed positive change.

We know many, many Black players, volunteers and stakeholders across the game who are very concerned about the findings of the investigation and associated reports of ‘racism at every level of the game. What happens next is critical to the health of our sport.

We strongly believe collaboration between Rugby’s leadership and the Black community is a major part of driving solutions to take the sport forward. Without it we will continue to see action plans come and go without getting to the heart of real change. We must work together to move ahead; that process needs to be accelerated significantly.

*The RBL was set up in 2022 and launched with a celebration of Black excellence in January this year. We are experts across a number of areas of Rugby and, vitally, staunchly committed to the Black communities within Rugby.”

The House of Lords hosted the first RUGBY BLACK LIST event on Monday 16th January 2023. The awards evening brought together over 150 guests to celebrate the achievements of the black rugby community in the English game. This was commemorated across seven awards categories, from Rising Star to Life in Sport.

The brain-child of Sagan Daniels, The Rugby Black List was formulated following a conversation with Leon Mann, co-founder of the Football Black List.

“I’m so proud we have delivered the first Rugby Black List Event. We have had so much to celebrate, and so much to be proud of, and going forward, so much to be excited about. But our journey is far from done – An evening like this is a fantastic opportunity to do better. Take collective responsibility and be more inclusive, more collaborative, and be the change that we want to see, for all the people we can. After we’ve had a good review and taken aways loads of learning, we’ll be really enthused about planning the next one”.

Sagan Daniels

THE RUGBY BLACK LIST will stage a launch event incorporating the first round of awards celebrating the contribution of Black People in rugby union. Hosted at the House of Lords, the celebration evening on Monday 16th January, will recognise the achievements of the black rugby community in the English game.

The Rugby Black List is positioned to help shine a light on black professionals and volunteers alike working, playing and volunteering in rugby union. The aim of the event is to inspire the next generation of leaders in sport. This includes the community game, talent pathways, and the elite game. Administrators, coaches, referees, volunteers, players, leaders and senior decision makers: there is a place for everyone in our game.

There is still a lack of representation of the black community within rugby union. However, it is important to celebrate the progress that has been made by recognising the achievements of black role models, with the hope that many more follow in their footsteps.

Sagan Daniels, formulated the idea following a conversation with Leon Mann co-founder of the Football Black List.

Sagan commented that:

“This awards event will be attended by prominent black stakeholders and their allies from grassroots community clubs, professional players, lead administrators, the media and wider business and sports eco-system. This event seeks to highlight and amplify the involvement of black people in rugby, while acknowledging and celebrating their contributions publicly. It will also provide a moment of catharsis and chance to build networks within the black community and beyond. Inspiring future generations of black people in rugby.”

A Steering Group was formed to create The Rugby Black List and to organise the award ceremony, consisting of: Sagan Daniels, Ralph Knibbs, Garnet Mackinder, Simon McIntyre, James Bailey and Leon Mann, with project management support provided by Marissa Lowe from the RFU.

Attendees include Peers from the House of Lords, community club leaders, national and international rugby representatives and players, governing bodies, major UK media outlets and other black inclusion leaders and stakeholders. The celebration event is supported by the RFU, Refresh Sports, Barrington Hibbert Associates, Sporting Equals, Kori Youth Charity and Roc Nation Sports International.

Garnet Mackinder said:

“There are awards for coaches and leaders, not just players. We want to highlight those people doing great things as role models with the hope of showing that rugby is for everyone, including the black community, and hopefully in years to come, we’ll have loads more to choose from.”

Speaking about the importance of this event for the rugby community, James Bailey, said:

“The professional game is in the spotlight and has some outstanding role models to look up to, male and female, but the recognition of the community game is important. Grassroots rugby is vital because the next England international that walks on to the pitch will be from a community club. Rugby needs to show inclusivity to all players. The more black representation there is, the more black communities will feel rugby is for them, and the more potential talent will be discovered. It isn’t just players, there is minimal representation in other roles including volunteers, match officials, and administrators from black backgrounds.”

Leon Mann MBE, co-founder of the Football Black List and advisor to the Rugby Black List steering group, added:

“The impact the Football Black List has made since it was founded more than a decade ago by Rodney Hinds and myself has been huge and I am excited about what the Rugby Black List initiative can achieve. At its core, I feel a sporting Black List is about highlighting black excellence within the context of under-representation, and highlighting our incredible talent and role models to the next generation and also the industry itself.
I am delighted my consultancy, Refresh Sports, are one of the sponsors of the celebration alongside Roc Nation Sports International, the RFU and others. Collaboration is key to maximising the impact that can be made. Equality and diversity are essential components of inclusion. Good equality and diversity practices make sure that rugby is fair and accessible to everyone. This ensures people are treated as equals, with the dignity and respect they deserve and that their differences are celebrated. The Rugby Black List attempts to shine a light on the rugby community, to encourage inclusion by reflecting the wider society.”

Highlighting the mission of the Rugby Black List Simon McIntyre said:

“Our mission is to recognise black excellence on and off the pitch in rugby union at all levels, and to highlight role models to the next generation; demonstrating that anything is possible regardless of skin colour. We are strong believers in ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, which is why it’s so important to draw attention to the contribution of the black community in rugby union in all roles; community and professional. Black communities are still underrepresented in rugby, and the Rugby Black List aims to be part of closing the gap by promoting black excellence.”

Ralph Knibbs addressed the future aspiration and intent of the Rugby Black List:

“We’re looking to have an annual event to celebrate the work that is done, not only from the top end of the sport, but also within the community game, making sure that all contributions are being recognised and people get an opportunity to network with their peers and prominent people within rugby.”

Tom Ilube, RFU Chair, commented:

“The RFU is really supportive of the aims and ambitions of The Rugby Black List and we’re pleased to be assisting with the group’s initial awards evening to celebrate the great work of black people involved in the game at all levels. The RFU has acknowledged that there is a lot to do in truly making the sport representative of the society in which we live, but a huge amount of work has been undertaken in the past few years and having others with the ambition to achieve the same aims is hugely beneficial.”

Sue Day, RFU COO and CFO said:

“Inclusion and diversity in our sport is really important to us as the governing body for rugby union. Events such as this, that celebrate the incredible contribution of individuals at every level of the game, help to inspire others from the black community to get involved. We’re proud to play a part in this inaugural awards event and look forward to many more in the future.”

We would like to thank the Rugby Football Union for their support, Kori Youth Charity, Roc Nation Sports International, Barrington Hibbert Associates, Sporting Equals, Badger Commerce, and Refresh Sports Consultancy and Productions for being The Rugby Black List’s first ever partners.