On homophobia in rugby

Bloody good referee here and no, I hadn’t known and don’t care now that I do. Welsh mind, which is a problem, but a  bloody good referee:

The Rugby Football Union has launched an investigation into alleged homophobic and racial abuse of the Welsh referee Nigel Owens by a group of England supporters during the defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham last Saturday.

Owens, widely regarded as one of the top referees is world rugby, told Telegraph Sport that he welcomed the investigation but revealed he has considered quitting the sport because of an increasing level of homophobic abuse in stadiums and on social media.

However, so far I’m not quite sure whether there is increased levels of homophobic abuse (or any other kind). We might be seeing here the Polly Effect.

“What has become more evident is that while we may not be so aware of it on the field, I think we become more aware of it now through social media,” Owens said.

“When you see things that are tweeted by so-called rugby supporters about opposition teams and some of the tweets that I have had, you begin thinking ‘bloody hell, are these type of people really in our game?’ “I have had homophobic tweets and messages on Facebook from people who are shouting things that I could not repeat in your newspaper.

“It is creeping into the game and some of the tweets I have had are pretty nasty, really.

“Sometimes you get these comments and read these tweets and you think ‘do I really need this? Do I really need to do this job?’ It does get you down and I honestly think sometimes like saying ‘enough is enough, I will walk away from it all’.

The Polly Effect being what happened over at The Guardian when the comments section online started, a decade or so ago. Suddenly La Toynbee (after whom the effect is named of course but this applies to many more than just her) found that the reading audience did not hang upon her every word and agree with her pronunciamentos. They were willing to argue with her grasp of facts, logic, basic political principles and, in effect, not treat her as the guru telling us all like it is ex cathedra.

It was one hell of a shock to the pontificating classes after those decades when the editorial staff had largely protected them from readers’ letters, allowing through only the more amusing ones in green ink.

The difference was of course that the new technology allowed what people already thought to be expressed a great deal more cheaply. No longer a letter and a stamp, but just a quick noodle on the keyboard and one was done.

And that’s a bit of a problem for us here. Is there actually more homophobia in rugby? It’s certainly always been a pretty macho game but I would imagine (and don’t know of course, I’ve not been around it for a couple of decades) that it’s changed in the same direction as the rest of society, towards caring or worrying about it all a great deal less. But working in the opposite direction is that greater visibility and greater ease of expression that digital media offers.

“You Poof!” might have been shouted from the stands or sniggered in the scrum all along, a tweet that goes out to thousands is very much more visible. And far more likely to be seen by the object of the derision/hatred.

Agreed, I’ve no idea what the balance of these is. But I would insist that the Polly Effect has something to do with it, in some part at least.

Seriously, outside the largely non-rugby playing vibrantly Islamic part of our society, who really thinks that Britain is becoming more homophobic? That technology allows those who are to become more vocally so seems obvious, but the first contention doesn’t quite fit with everything else we know.

And on to an excellent joke. Stephen Fry, in drag as a middle aged woman. “Yes, I was very shocked when my son told me his boyfriend was gay”.

How very English of me, being incapable of discussing sex without finding an opportunity to titter about it.

30 thoughts on “On homophobia in rugby”

  1. “Sometimes you get these comments and read these tweets and you think ‘do I really need this? Do I really need to do this job?’”

    Perhaps he should instead be thinking ‘Do I really need to read these Tweets’?

  2. JuliaM,
    I don’t think he’s that easily bullied, maybe just making the point that too many people send too many seriously obnoxious messages.

  3. So Much for Subtlety

    I have to say that I have never heard any homophobic abuse from a rugby stand. Well, not since I last went to a High School match and it wasn’t specifically homophobic as such.

    Twitter just let’s us know what utter sh!ts other people are in private.

  4. “How very English of me…”

    Except you haven’t discussed sex at all. It’s not just you either: millions of pages have been written about sexuality without the slightest mention of sex.

  5. Funny how social media, that fake fantasy of a playground is confused with actual life and attending rugby matches.

    Having seen well over 100 professional games since 1998 I’ve never heard racial or homophobic abuse, Christ people rarely swear.

  6. Been to hundreds of professional and amateur rugby matches. Never seen it. Being a more civilised game, we’re allowed a pint in the stands. Even after several hours of drinking at 7s tournaments I’ve never heard racist or homophobic stuff.

    Men in private, and especially youths (I am the father of 2 teenage, rugby playing sons) will jokingly make reference to poofs, bummers, arse-bandits, jobby stabbers, uphill gardeners, takers, dropped soap, benders, bentshots, etc, etc

    The list is endless, the fascination quite odd, especially when gay colleagues and sportsmen and women are perfectly normal in everyday intercourse (fnarr!). Not sure ‘education’ (ie finger-wagging) will ever change it, especially among Brits.

    Note to Nigel Owens (great ref & seems like a nice bloke): it takes about 3 seconds to delete the twitter app; It is not obligatory to have an account.

  7. It is another attempt by CM dross to take control of any kind of free speech anywhere.

    While all “sport” (apart from combative efforts aimed at the real world ) is a waste of time and money–“homophobia” would seem a strange charge to aim at a sport that consists of males rolling about on top of each other and then going off for a bath together. Or is that football?

  8. I’ve always found the whole gay-bashing, poof-baiting business beyond me. Is it anything other than bullying the weak? Are there really people who care where other people insert their todgers. If so, why?

  9. There used to be a homo RFC in West London. I know because we played them. I can’t remember their official name but they were quite happy to be referred to as London Ball Handlers, or the Pinks, or whatever. I think they had to have a couple of ringers in the team to keep within RFU discrimination rules.

    And pace the Guardian, it was quite safe to drop the soap in the showers afterwards. Men d not think constantly about sex.

    I hope the club is still going strong.

  10. Since Nigel Owens awarded NZ a try when the ball had been pushed towards the line without reaching it (and no downward pressure ) at a time England was doing rather well and had just scored a scintillating running try, the crowd reaction was ,perhaps, one of finding any stick to beat him with.

  11. DBC, you’re right for once.
    Still I’m surprised Owens can hear (through only one ear, of course) what a few bigots in a Twickenham crowd are shouting.

    If you want to see the nasty side of rugger you have to go to some Frenc junior divisions.

  12. Suddenly La Toynbee (after whom the effect is named of course but this applies to many more than just her) found that the reading audience did not hang upon her every word and agree with her pronunciamentos.

    What was Polly’s reaction?

  13. “What was Polly’s reaction?”

    She wrote a rather infamous article about it (its where Tim got the ‘pedant’ quote from), basically saying ‘Who are you awful little plebs?’.

    Given the decline of the dead-tree press, I’m surprised Rusbridger hasn’t let the ‘Star’ pundits go. They earn very good wages — Toynbee is on something like £300kpa to shit out the same article twice a week — and are easily replaced by the work experience kids who increasingly are taking up the CIF workload.

  14. So Much for Subtlety

    dearieme – “I’ve always found the whole gay-bashing, poof-baiting business beyond me. Is it anything other than bullying the weak? Are there really people who care where other people insert their todgers. If so, why?”

    The entire human race is obsessed with where other people stick their todgers. To the exclusion of virtually everything else. Some express it well, some express it badly. Ms West for instance is not expressing it well. But it remains a central core to human existence.

    As for homophobia, Gays are a bit like the Jews really. Not all that powerful in and of themselves – I mean there virtually no Gay people in the world – but very powerful in connection with their more mainstream supporters. Which is the point. There is no chance this guy is going to quit. But there is a very real chance that every rugby club in the world is going to be named and shamed and forced to go through re-education and self-criticism. Every player will be forced to wear pink ribbons. And a way of life, such as it is, will be destroyed.

    The problem with Gay people is not what they do with their todgers but the fact that they are a Trojan Horse for people who have no interest in tolerance and intend to radically re-structure society. We defeated the Soviet Union only to go down, if you will forgive the expression, to their moppets in the West.

  15. SMFS,
    Surely it’s the “moppets in the West” who are therefore the problem, and not Gays?

    As for destroying a way of life …. rugby has already changed, and for the better. Witless violence gets you no points these days, but genuine toughness still does. Clamping down on loathsome drunks doesn’t seem like the end of civilisation to me.

  16. bloke in france

    The Kings Cross Steelers are an openly gay team (although I’m not 100% sure if you HAVE to be gay to play for them). Anyway, they are in one of the minor Essex leagues and have also taken part in a number of tournaments specifically for gay clubs internationally.

    Rugby does seem to be a bit more enlightened than some other sports in this regard.

    I understand that Nigel Owens’ boyfriend has told his family that he’s a gay relationship but hasn’t let on that Nigel is Welsh (old joke)

  17. Nigel Owens is a damned good ref, last Saturday apart, and by all accounts rather good on the speaking and stand up comedy circuit.

    Given he is normally quite quick witted on the park I’m surprised his response wasn’t to tell them to fuck off back to the football (soccer) stands.

  18. I too like Nigel Owens, both for his on-field wit and his standards of refereeing. He is popular in Australia too, mainly for the former. I had no idea he was gay, but I do find it a surprising coincidence that the two most prominent gays in international rugby happened to be Welsh (the other being Gareth Thomas). I hope he keeps refereeing, he’s great fun to watch and listen to. I’m not surprised he does a good sideline on the comedy circuit.

    To Owen Farrell: “You have to use the same ball to kick the restart – I told you that last year. You’ve forgotten already, have you?”

  19. The article does not say that Nige complained about being abused at the match but rather that a single Guardian reader wrote a letter to that same organ about the incident. Which no-one else seems to have noticed.
    Owens just added that he was getting some nasty social media abuse. In which case he should stay off Twatter. As should everyone.

    I don’t want to be seen to condone racist or homophobic abuse, but “that was never a fucking try you sheepshagging poof’ would not have been an unreasonable reaction…. Certainly not worth banning anyone from the game for.

  20. I think this was Owens:

    To some forward who had started complaining to him about whatever:

    “They got me to referee the game, so that you don’t have to. Great isn’t it? Now go away.”

  21. No, MC, it’s not a reasonable reaction:

    1) You’re likely to be sin-binned or sent off for being a twat
    2) Assuming you’re right and someone else wrong (without seeing a replay) is pig-headed
    3) Squealing like a teething toddler ONLY when things don’t go your way is not reasonable
    4) Teams that take the rough with the smooth have a much better chance of winning

  22. I didn’t know he was gay until I heard he’d castigated a wayward ‘Quins hooker “I’m straighter than that throw in.”

  23. “Ref, if I called you a c*** you’d send me off, wouldn’t you”

    – “yes of course”

    “But if I just think you’re a c*** you can’t send me off for that can you?”

    – “No I can’t send you off for what you’re thinking”

    “OK ref, I think you’re a c***”

  24. Still it is a sign of how indoctrinated you all have become. ‘Gay’ instead of homosexual. Fearful to say the wrong thing. Can be severely punished for saying the wrong thing.
    And once you were British.

  25. “Gay instead of homosexual”. I think it was Mark Twain who said, being paid by the word, that he always used “city” rather than “metropolis”.

  26. So Much for Subtlety

    Jack C – “Surely it’s the “moppets in the West” who are therefore the problem, and not Gays?”

    If the Gays are happy for apologists for mass murderers like Peter Tatchell to speak for them, then they are the problem. I agree in theory there is no problem with Gay people. But we are moving into a period when politics is becoming more extreme and so either you are in prison or the people you disagree with are. The Gay community, collectively as unfair as that is, is showing precisely no tolerance for anyone else. They can hardly expect other people to show tolerance in return.

    “As for destroying a way of life …. rugby has already changed, and for the better. Witless violence gets you no points these days, but genuine toughness still does.”

    Rugby is changing but you are the proverbial boiling frog. The water is heating up bit by bit as the Left goes from victory to victory. So you will be cooked. Worse, you will become One of Them. What is the end game? Not an end to witless violence. American football is further down this path to Soviet-style conformity. The end game there seems a total ban. Spineless co-operation has not been enough.

    “Clamping down on loathsome drunks doesn’t seem like the end of civilisation to me.”

    No but jailing people for their tweets is close.

    Tim Newman – “I hope he keeps refereeing, he’s great fun to watch and listen to. I’m not surprised he does a good sideline on the comedy circuit.”

    They really should not have miked up the refs. Too many of them, as it is, forget that the best umpire is seen but rarely heard. They think they are the main attraction and so we get these stupid stop-start games as the refs insist on inserting themselves into every play. They are not the stars and the attraction of the comedy circuit is dire for the game.

  27. SMFS
    You have forgotten your meds
    Resemblance is not identity
    Tolerance is not an open door to communism
    Being urban is not specifically jewish or gay
    etc

    Kings X Steelers rings a bell. I’ve a hunch they named themselves after Battersea Ironsides, who were maybe the first to put a gay side out, the “Irons” as they called themselves.

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in france – “You have forgotten your meds”

    That is entirely possible.

    “Resemblance is not identity”

    I am not sure what that even means.

    “Tolerance is not an open door to communism”

    I agree. But that is my point, isn’t it? We do not live in a tolerant time. We have offered tolerance to the Gay community – along with a whole lot of other groups – and we are not getting tolerance in return. The Gay community, or at least the professional activists among them, want to ruin people who simply want to act as their own conscience tells them. Jail them in some cases. As with multiculturalism tolerance is a one-way street these days.

    “Being urban is not specifically jewish or gay”

    Sorry but what?

  29. Sorry, SMFS
    You have taken your meds but you are being deliberately obtuse.

    You can be intolerant if you are an overwhelming majority (in Brick Lane or Fallujah).
    The rest of us just have to rub along and it’s a two way street.
    Anecdata alert: I find people more tolerant than they used to be.

    There was no ball grabbing or eye gouging when we were playing teh gayers. Maybe now the matches hardly need to be reffed.

  30. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in france – “You have taken your meds but you are being deliberately obtuse.”

    I like to think I am still off my meds, but you have not explained what the hell you were talking about.

    “You can be intolerant if you are an overwhelming majority (in Brick Lane or Fallujah).”

    Tell Brendan Eich that. It is not true. I doubt that the majority of British people have ever supported the Leftist multicultural nonsense. Nor do I think they are thrilled about hounding Bed and Breakfast owners out of business. But we are where we are. As I said, it is not their numbers as such, it is their allies that are the problem.

    “The rest of us just have to rub along and it’s a two way street.”

    But it is not happening. It is a one-way street. The majority is expected – and often required by law – to tolerate the minority. They will jail people for insulting Islam – or even preaching Christianity around Muslims. But they will not jail Muslims for saying Gays should be thrown off a cliff. The Gay lobby has shown precisely no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with them on the smallest matters. As long as they are White and heterosexual I suppose. Just as the “anti-racist” lobby does not.

    “Anecdata alert: I find people more tolerant than they used to be.”

    The frog is being boiled. You have not even noticed the slow process of becoming like them.

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