Ex-England wing Ugo Monye hopes that as chair of a new Rugby Football Union advisory group he can help everyone feel rugby “is a game for them”.
Monye will lead the independent diversity and inclusion advisory group which will “shape plans” and “challenge the RFU on its progress” in the area.
“It’s important that we get this right so that anyone, from anywhere, feels rugby is a game for them,” Monye said.
“The RFU has made diversity and inclusion a core priority.”
He added: “Clear plans are being worked on that should make a substantive difference to the game.”
Former England World Cup winner and current Wasps Ladies director of rugby Giselle Mather is vice-chair of the group, which the RFU hopes will help the sport “reflect the diversity in society”.
The RFU said the “priority areas for action” are currently “ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and age”.
‘I do not think rugby is an elite sport’
Monye said that over the past 12 months there had been “a lot of acknowledgement about diversity and inclusion” in the sport, with a silence being observed before international games to mark Rugby Against Racism.
The former British and Irish Lion said he felt “fortunate” for the experiences he has had in rugby and he now wants to “widen that experience to lots of other kids”.
A 2019 report entitled Elitist Britain found that 37% of male British rugby union internationals attended fee-paying schools. Across the wider population, 7% of people were privately educated.
“When I played on the World Sevens Series I was regarded as the quickest on the series, as well as in the Premiership, but at my state school I wasn’t the quickest guy in my year,” Monye said.
“There are lots of talented kids that if they were exposed to rugby and the community of rugby, who knows what they might be able to achieve?
“Rugby has forever had this elite tag. It has elite roots, but I do not think it is an elite sport.”
RFU wants rugby to be ‘open and inclusive’
Some of the goals outlined by the RFU include increasing attendance of under-represented groups at Twickenham, increasing the number of female players and players from lower socio-economic groups and having a female coach or match official involved with every Premier 15s club.
The RFU is also aiming to increase representation of people from ethnically diverse communities on its board and executive and leadership team, as well as women and non-binary people.
It is aiming for 50% of its workforce “to be from under-represented groups” by 2025.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “To be able to draw on the wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise in this group will be invaluable to us as we embark on plans to increase diversity in our sport and ensure it is open and inclusive to all.”