15 Jun 2017

Apology after grandmother's accusations of racial abuse

From Checkpoint, 5:44 pm on 15 June 2017

A woman who says she was racially abused by a coach at Christchurch's Shirley rugby club has received an apology.

Theona Ireton was about to watch her grandson play rugby in May when a heated exchange erupted in the carpark with a coach swearing at her and calling her an f***ing black b****.

Mrs Ireton said when she complained to the club, it said it would not take action because the abuse took place in the carpark and not on the sideline.

The Canterbury Rugby Union ordered a judicial inquiry and on Tuesday the coach apologised.

Mrs Ireton said she had mixed feelings about the apology, but the incident had at least shown her grand-children that that sort of behaviour was not acceptable.

"He is what he is, he's probably never going to change and he's in his wee bubble and that's fine but if we can at least get our younger children, like my daughter's age and younger, not accepting it."

Mrs Ireton said she believed the rugby union was moving in the right direction in tackling racism.

Last month the Canterbury Rugby Union launched a new campaign - called 'We All Bleed Red' - aimed at stopping racism on the rugby pitch.

There were 12 cases of misconduct last year, including two high profile cases of racial abuse, which its chief executive Nathan Godfrey said was not acceptable.

The campaign is due to run for three years and included the appointment of a disciplinary officer to deal with complaints, and a judiciary committee formed to handle mediation.