By Matthew Treadwell
Alex Simmons believes RFL panels dealing with cases of alleged racism on the pitch should be more diverse to ensure they can fully appreciate the effect such comments can have.
Wigan forward Tony Clubb was this week given an eight-match ban and fined two weeks’ wages for using ‘unacceptable language based on national or ethnic origin’ in remarks he made to Hull FC’s Andre Savelio during the Super League game between the sides.
Simmons – who is team manager of the Jamaica team and is also an RFL Diversity and Inclusion Board member – took part in a discussion with RFL Chief Regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse, which was mediated by Sky Sports’ Brian Carney ahead of Friday night’s Challenge Cup quarter-final between St Helens and Huddersfield.
He raised some key concerns about the makeup of disciplinary panels, who are more used to reaching a judgement on rule infringements than racist language.
“There’s a lack of diversity on the panel itself which doesn’t give you the full lived experience and understanding of how these comments would make an individual feel,” Simmons told Sky Sports.
“You have a very different perspective having walked in those shoes.
“I believe a panel dealing with a case like this should contain a diverse group.”
Simmons was also unhappy with the sentence handed out to Clubb, which he feels should have incorporated a greater level of education and training on the issue of racist abuse.
“I’m disappointed with the way it was communicated,” added Simmons.
“The sentence itself, for me, should have had some mandatory diversity training and some support for Tony, with some education around it.
“To say those words, not knowing the hurt they caused Andre and the racist nature of those words, the bigger problem is he doesn’t know that’s a racist remark.
“It comes down to education and training.
“Tony Clubb’s a great bloke – I’ve known him for a long time and I don’t think he’s a racist person – but he’s made a racist remark.”
Moorhouse highlighted the level of experience of those who presided on the disciplinary panel but noted the case highlighted that more still needs to be done.
“It’s important to note the level of knowledge on that panel. It was chaired by Judge Guy Kearl, one of the most senior judges in this country,” she said.
“The panels do receive training. For as long as I can remember we have had education at the disciplinary panels every year and a constant theme is diversity and inclusion training.
“Having said that, one of the learning points from this case is education right throughout the game.
“Likewise, with the players, we did a mandatory diversity and inclusion module for all professional players at the start of this year but we can always do more.
“From my conversations with people in the game, there is a real desire and willingness to learn right across the sport.”
Simmons also reiterated his desire to have seen Clubb and Savelio engage with each other off the pitch in order to create greater understanding of the issues involved.
“With this case, it was such an opportunity to show compassion, to show education, to show support,” said Simmons.
“I would have advocated getting both players together, an apology from Tony, film it. Fans would learn and Tony would learn.
“Let Andre tell him about his Polynesian heritage and culture and why those comments were so hurtful.
“Give him that level of education, let him do some community work – that’s going to change people’s feelings.”
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