Cape Town - The English Rugby Football Union is to investigate alleged homophobic and racist abuse by England supporters towards Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, during England 24-21 defeat to New Zealand at Twickenham last Saturday.
A supporter at the game wrote a letter to The Guardian, saying Owens - who is openly gay - was the subject of derogatory comments made by England fans during the game.
Keith Wilson from South Yorkshire wrote: "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 30s but next to him, hearing this vitriol, was a little boy; I felt ashamed.
“I did speak to the men after the match but they were not in a fit state to engage in sensible discussion. I suspect that if it had been in a football match they’d have been thrown out. There was a time when you could trust rugby supporters to take alcohol into a game and behave like grown-ups. The time has come to treat rugby louts like football louts - no alcohol in the ground, zero tolerance to bigots.”
The RFU responded with an official statement on the matter, which is being investigated:
“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.”
Owens, 43, lauded the fans who wrote the letter to The Guardian. He told Wales Online it will go along way to help to eradicate this sort of thing from rugby.