Ugo Monye, a former England wing, has called for radical change in how the game is conducted. He believes that the culture of heavy drinking and “laddish” behaviour in the changing rooms must be tackled.
Monye, also a member of the Rugby Football Union’s diversity and inclusion advisory group, said that the sport’s heavy reliance on alcohol could contribute to declining participation levels among the country’s youth.
Monye, who played for England and the British and Irish Lions in 2009, said that the traditional drinking habits of the game need to be changed to broaden its appeal. He cited the example of the team’s tour of South Africa in 2009 as an example of how the culture of heavy drinking can still be seen in professional rugby.
Heavy drinking culture
Alcohol advertising has been prominent during tournaments such as the Six Nations and the European Champions Cup. During the final of the Champions Cup, which was held at the Twickenham stadium, bottles of Champagne will be on hand to celebrate the winners.
Monye said that the game should do better to reflect the diverse communities it serves. He believes that the game should also be more inclusive. The 39-year-old former wing also noted that the traditional practices of the game have become outdated.
“When I did some rugby foundation work in communities in Birmingham recently, I thought: ‘Is our game really a sport for all?'” Monye said. “I do think at the heart of it is, but I do think we also need to be mindful of some of the stereotypes and traditions that we used to have and that have kind of seeped into this professional age.”
Throughout his playing career, Monye had heavily invested in the culture of heavy drinking in the game. However, as a parent, he said he would not want his children to participate in the game due to the heavy drinking culture. In a city such as Birmingham, with a large Muslim population, the former Premiership champion said he would not want his kids to drink after every match.
Despite the prevalence of heavy drinking in professional rugby, Monye looked forward to a time when the game was held to a higher standard. He also said that sport should be regarded as a reflection of society.
‘Laddish’ changing room
Monye made over 200 appearances for the club Quins during his playing career. He also won the 2012 Premiership title with the team. During his career, Monye realised he was worried that the environment in the changing room could have prevented players from being comfortable with their sexuality.
Currently, no openly gay active male professional players are in the English professional league. However, a player from the team Leinster, Jack Dunne, came out last year.
Monye reflected on the situation when Simon Miall, one of his teammates at Quins, came out as gay. He retired from the professional rugby league in 2007.
During his time with Quins, Monye said that the team’s changing room was a bit of a “laddish” environment. He was ashamed to admit that he thought that the players intentionally went out to hurt people.
Despite the hardships, Monye praised the team’s efforts in raising awareness for the LGBT community. He said that lessons Simon has learned from his experience can help other players become more accepting of themselves.