Rugby fans at Twickenham have been accused of firing homophobic comments at openly gay referee, Nigel Owens.
In last week’s match between England and New Zealand, Nigel Owens was heckled by the crowd, who were reportedly shouting homophobic and racial abuse.
In the wake of the allegations, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have launched an investigation into the alleged abuse that Owens received. According to one fan, Owens was subjected to a torrent of abuse, fuelled by anger and alcohol.
Keith Wilson, from South Yorkshire, said:
“As a lifelong rugby fan, a straight man in his 60s, I could not believe that a bunch of men half my age watching a rugby match in the 21st century could be capable of hurling such nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse at an openly gay match official. […] My equally disgusted son is in his 30s, but next to him, hearing this vitriol, was a little boy. I felt ashamed.”
In light of the allegations, Owens – who hails from Wales – spoke to BBC Radio Wales and admitted that the comments and abuse were hard to hear, but he has faith that the RFU will get to the bottom of it.
“The RFU will take this seriously and deal with it, it’s important to stop this from getting a bigger problem in the game. […] As a referee, it’s not nice to have stuff like this getting back to me, and if I was telling you it doesn’t get me down or doesn’t affect me, I’d be lying because it does.”
Since the match, the RFU has released a statement saying that they will not tolerate any kind of discrimination in the game.
“The RFU condemns all forms of discrimination and aims to ensure that all people, irrespective of their age, gender, ability, race, religion, ethnic origin, creed, colour, nationality, social status or sexual orientation, have a genuine and equal opportunity to enjoy rugby union in whatever form, on or off the pitch, at all levels and in all roles. We take any allegations of any abuse very seriously and are investigating this matter.”
Due to the homophobia rife in sports, Paddy Power launched a campaign to help battle discrimination.
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