London Skolars coach Jermaine Coleman has insisted he won’t give up his fight to get more equality into Rugby League.
As the only black head coach currently in the professional British game, Coleman was disappointed by the governing body’s decision not to reprimand a number of individuals over comments made on social media about the Black Lives Matter initiative.
Coleman spoke about these comments in a national newspaper interview, prompting the RFL to investigate whether the posts breached the RFL Operational Rules, including whether they brought the game into disrepute and whether they included any unacceptable language (including language based on an individual’s ethnic origin).
The RFL also obtained external advice, which confirmed that the specific comments could not be described as being discriminatory.
Based on all of the available evidence, it was found that the individuals did not use unacceptable language (based on ethnic origin). However they did breach the RFL’s social media policy and each received a warning as to their future behaviour. In addition, the individuals have been instructed to undertake the RFL’s education on the use of social media.
But for Coleman this is not enough and he believes a change in policy is needed to support black, Asian and minority ethnic players.
“I have probably been digging my heels in a bit with the RFL and pushing some issues I feel are important,” said Coleman, who also coaches the Jamaica national side.
“I’m not particularly happy with their outcome. I feel there has been significant evidence given to them that they could have looked at, but the current process doesn’t allow them to do that.
“That is to do with the way their policy is written, which is understandable on one hand. If it says ‘X’, then you can’t therefore do ‘Y’. But on the other hand, we’re a sport that claims that we have massive diversity and have massive equality. Unfortunately in this instance, and with the way the policy is written, we can’t do that.
“At the moment a comment has to be directly racist in order for it to be punished. It can have an undertone of racism and say something a bit backhanded, as long as it not direct, and that can’t be punished.
“That’s not how society, or the world should work. Whether it’s direct or backhanded everyone knows the message is clearly the same.
“The policy lets the game down and lets the people down.
“I took no pleasure in seeing some of those comments, so to have them passed off and dealt with in isolation is not the way the world works.
“The RFL doesn’t work with anything in isolation. If a player gets sent off in one game, and then gets sent off again for exactly the same thing, the previous incident is brought up again. So to deal with a tweet in isolation is not how the RFL treats other incidents in the game and I have made that clear to them.
“I feel the RFL have a great opportunity to be a real frontrunner in how they deal with things like this. They can lead the way, not necessarily in how they punish people, but how they educate them and move the sport forward.
“I will continue to raise the issue and continue to be supportive of change. I know that change is difficult and, like any organisation, it may take time to change, but ultimately there is a group of people who are suffering.
“Hopefully I can help make some changes for the better.”
DONCASTER chief executive Carl Hall has sprung to the defence of the RFL after criticism from some quarters over delays in any announcements over the Championship and League 1 seasons.
Club officials last got together in June to discuss the findings of the two working groups that had been set up in mid-May to assess the cost and logistics of a return to play, as well looking at other revenue opportunities.
Clubs were also asked to take part in a survey to present their views, with the findings of these discussed at an RFL board meeting at the start of this month.
Many fans were expecting a definite outcome at that stage, but instead it was announced that a decision would be made by July 23.
It led to many people criticising the RFL, but Hall contends that this is not a view shared by the clubs involved.
“Since that last meeting there has been a lot of stuff come out with people asking why the RFL don’t just make a decision,” said Hall.
“But it was at the request of most of the clubs that they didn’t make a decision that day, because we didn’t feel it would be a positive one.
“Things have been changing by the hour rather than by day more recently, so we wanted a little bit more time, in the hope that the government would say, right you can get back now with crowds.
“But a decision still needs to be made before the Super League season starts again, because I don’t think they can get back playing without knowing if promotion and relegation is happening, so we are hoping for that one way or the other on Thursday.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Simon Finnigan is all in favour of the new rules that will come into force when the game returns at Super League level next month, but he isn’t certain that they are being introduced at the right time.
Changes to the game were confirmed by the RFL on 6 July, with the ‘Six Again’ rule coming in, alongside the suspension of scrums.
“I am a fan of the ‘six-again’ rule and how it looks on the field, but I’m just not sure if it’s the right time to do it,” said Finnigan.
“I understand the health reasons behind certain rule changes, but I’m not convinced that all of them needed to come in immediately.
“Super League players will probably only be getting three weeks training before they play with these rules. So to speed the game up for what will be a very under-prepared group of players maybe isn’t the best decision across the board.
“Other things could have been added to help these players. I thought they might have introduced an increase in the interchanges, but they haven’t.
“With a very short preparation time we have to be very aware of the effect these changes might have on the players.
“They could potentially lead to the fastest Super League product we’ve ever seen, but I don’t know if the players will be ready physically for them after such a long break.
“I wouldn’t have accelerated their under-preparedness by changing some of the laws that are going to quicken the game up.
“It’s an added toll on the players that they maybe don’t need.
“But I’ll be quite happy if I can sit back and say I was wrong, because I hope that by then we’ll have had as few injuries to players as possible.”
ROCHDALE HORNETS coach Matt Calland is delighted with the way his squad is shaping up for next season after getting another key re-signing over the line.
Fullback Sam Freeman, who joined the club from Widnes ahead of this season, has put pen to paper on an extended deal and he follows Shaun Ainscough, Sean Penkywicz and Callum Marriott in remaining at the club. Swinton pair Gavin Bennion and Rob Fairclough have also signed for Hornets for next season.
“Getting Sam signed is great for us,” said Calland.
“I really rate him. He’s a really great player to coach and he’s a fan’s favourite.
“He does something exciting every time he has possession and he returns the ball really well.
“I’m really glad to have him on board and there are plenty of other guys I am speaking to as well.
“It’s great that so many guys are wanting to stay with us and that is all credit to Andy Mazey. He wants to show that we really mean business going into next year.
“We’re really excited by the signings we’ve made so far and I can’t wait to get working with them all again.”
HUNSLET coach Gary Thornton has warned that any decision made by the RFL this week will have an impact on next season as well as on the rest of 2020.
The RFL is scheduled to make a call on the remainder of this season by Thursday at the latest, with Championship and League 1 clubs waiting to find out if they will be back in action at all this year.
“As I have said previously, if promotion and relegation aren’t on the table for this year I am not sure the season would have that much meaning,” said Thornton.
“We’d budgeted for a season that was hopefully going to see us make the play-offs and then be in with a chance of promotion. But if that opportunity is taken away from us, it will likely have a knock-on effect to next year’s budget.
“That might mean we’re not going to be able to be in the same situation next season to challenge for promotion.
“If there was prize money made available instead of promotion that would allow for us to cover some of that difference, then that could be a solution.”
KEIGHLEY COUGARS assistant coach Dean Muir admits there is a bit of jealousy around the club that they have not been able to get back to training yet, while others around them have.
The Cougars are waiting for the outcome of the latest RFL meeting this week before knowing how the rest of this year will pan out.
“It’s been nice to see that amateur clubs, like our local team Keighley Albion, have been allowed to get back training,” said Muir.
“We’ve also got Super League teams returning ahead of the season coming back and we are a little bit jealous as we just want to get back.
“But it also gives us a bit of hope that we can get back in soon. We’ve done a lot of work as staff and all the players have the done the paperwork they need to do to get back, so hopefully fingers crossed and we are allowed to get back to some sort of normality fairly soon.
“There is nothing else we can do now apart from wait for the RFL’s decision.”
NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray has said it has been nice to have some normality back at the club now that a number of players have returned to training.
The club has now had a couple of small Friday night sessions with the players in the hope that they can return to playing at some stage in the coming weeks.
“We’ve had limited numbers in and been maintaining social distance but it’s been good to have some of them back together,” said Murray.
“They have been nothing like what a normal session would be, but we’ve done some conditioning work and some basic ball drills.
“There have been about twelve lads at each session and they have been split between three coaches. We haven’t made the sessions compulsory, but the ones we’ve had have just wanted to keep ticking over and do something different.
“It’s been a bit strange because the environment is different to what we’re used to, but it’s been great to see them again and get some of the social side of the game back.”
WORKINGTON TOWN were given a ringing endorsement recently when one of the best players in the world named them as one of the few clubs he’d have considered playing for in his return to the UK.
Unfortunately for them though, Great Britain and England international James Graham opted for a return to St Helens for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Graham, who’s father hails from Maryport, was recently granted a release from NRL side St George Illawarra to allow him to return home and finish his career where it started.
“I don’t know if I really had a plan when I left,” Graham, who is also a patron of Cumbrian children’s charity Team Evie, told the Saints Podcast.
“I did know that there would only be St Helens or potentially Workington Town that I’d only ever consider playing for if I came home.”
BARROW RAIDERS Chairman Steve Neale has said the club will keep making the most of its facilities following the success of the giant beer garden they have opened on the Craven Park pitch.
The Raiders took advantage of the large open air space again at the weekend by hosting a Soul and Motown event that again brought the local community together and brought in some much needed cash to the club.
“Clearly the large outdoor space is our number one advantage and we could literally fit a couple of thousand on the pitch and would not be close to rubbing shoulders,” Neale wrote in his North West Evening Mail column.
“When I first joined the club one of the very first things I remember saying was that we needed to make more use of our facilities and that it simply wasn’t viable to run a club on a dozen home games a season.
“I always saw an increase in the variety of income streams as vital for the growth of the club and we are now starting to see things come to fruition.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the great benefits our venue has, but assuming the virus has passed by next summer this will not be a one-off venture. We intend to put a programme of events together for next summer with the highlight being Euro 2021. We intend to purchase a giant screen and we can literally see our highest crowd of the season watching England at Craven Park.
“Obviously, we all still hope for the return of Rugby League. That we are allowed a concert in the ground but not Rugby League seems bizarre.”
COVENTRY BEARS’ Richard Squires admits it has been a strange first year as a head coach at this level.
Following the departure of long-time coach Tom Tsang ahead of this season, Squires stepped up to head up the new coaching structure under director of rugby Alan Robinson.
But, as it stands, Squires’ tenure has yet to really get going and he is now looking ahead to the prospect of making a mark on his newest role.
“Plans for next season are usually well underway by now, but we need to wait for an outcome from the RFL before Alan and I can discuss a budget and I can start looking at players,” said Squires.
“It’s not been the easiest introduction to my first real season at doing this level of recruitment.
“Even as a League 1 head coach, I am in my first year of the role and I’ve had three games so far.
“It’s been a topsy-turvy start, but I am looking forward to seeing the outcome from the RFL this week and we have plans in place for whatever that turns out to be.”
WEST WALES RAIDERS chief executive Peter Tiffin is confident the club can jump straight into action if this week’s RFL meeting has a positive outcome for the season.
“If the season is to go ahead, we have to have a home ground and a training venue we can use, which luckily we have,” said Tiffin.
“But we just have to wait for the Government guidelines to allow us to do that, and so does the RFL.
“As soon as we get the green light, the boys are ready to go. The ground staff have got the ground ready and the training facilities are ready.
“It’s a bit different in Wales, because we’re still a bit behind England in terms of guidelines, but I’m sure we can get going as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
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