The House of Lords hosted the first RUGBY BLACK LIST event on Monday 16th January 2023. The awards evening brought together over 150 guests to celebrate the achievements of the black rugby community in the English game. This was commemorated across seven awards categories, from Rising Star to Life in Sport.
The brain-child of Sagan Daniels, The Rugby Black List was formulated following a conversation with Leon Mann, co-founder of the Football Black List.
“I’m so proud we have delivered the first Rugby Black List Event. We have had so much to celebrate, and so much to be proud of, and going forward, so much to be excited about. But our journey is far from done – An evening like this is a fantastic opportunity to do better. Take collective responsibility and be more inclusive, more collaborative, and be the change that we want to see, for all the people we can. After we’ve had a good review and taken aways loads of learning, we’ll be really enthused about planning the next one”.
The full list of award winners and their citations:
World record holding, former professional rugby player, Tyson Lewis, started his career in Essex, before going on to play at Blackheath and Plymouth Albion. He joined Doncaster Knights in 2012, where he became the Club’s leading try-scorer of the professional age. In 2021, Tyson took on the role as Academy Director at Doncaster Knights whilst honing his coaching skills with the first team. Lewis oversees DRFC’s best young talent and ensure the player pathway is clear and accessible for every rugby player at Castle Park
As Head of Community at Harlequins, Mark works to grow the Quins and overall rugby fan base, and coaches across the community and performance side of the Club, from Women’s Premier15’s team as an Assistant Coach, to the Centre of Excellence. Mark is currently Women’s Coach at Richmond FC. A commissioned Sandhurst Army Captain and player in the combined services, Mark has been outspoken on inclusivity and the need to embrace all differences. A firm advocate for ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’.
Hughton Campbell can easily be described as a force of nature, building opportunities for player to play a game they love and represent at all levels. Either Rugby League or Union in his capacity as Jamaican Rugby team manager, Hughton and his team of people, have scoured the nation looking for Jamaican heritage, players for representative rugby. His hard work has paid off as Jamaica gained a place at the Commonwealth Games, as well as the prestigious Hong Kong 7s, HSBC 7s World Series and Rugby World Cup for 7s.
Born in St. Kitts West Indies, Collin emigrated to Birmingham at 6 years old. Having played rugby at school, club and divisional level in the amateur era, Collin’s background as a Physical Education graduate positioned him to be able to transition into life as a professional coach. Collin has held roles including Technical Director, Ghana Rugby; Director of Coaching, Zimbabwe Rugby Union and was the 1st black coach to win the Premiership with Harlequins. He is currently Head Coach at Wimbledon RFC, in the London and South East Premier League.
One of the few black players in English club rugby, Floyd made history when he was named as the first black top flight rugby captain, for Saracens, at the age of 23. He played a leading role in the club’s progress during the 1980s. After retiring from rugby, he emerged as an inspiring teacher and headmaster, having a positive impact on many, many young lives. With the Black Lives Matter movement once again highlighting racial inequalities, Floyd has spent time visiting schools to talk and educate about unconscious bias. In the new year’s honours list Floyd has received an OBE for services to Rugby Union Football, to Education and to Charity.
A rugby legend, in both codes - League and Union. Jason played in 3 world cup finals, scoring England’s only try in the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup in Sydney, Australia. Jason’s League career totalled 281 games, scoring an incredible 171 tries. He represented England, Great Britain and the British Lions. Jason switched codes and joined Sale Sharks in 2000, going on to play 159 games for Sale, scoring 248 points. As well as England honours, Jason received 5 caps for the British and Irish Lions. He was awarded the MBE for his role in the 2003 World Cup and the OBE for services to Rugby in 2008. Jason also looks after active community programmes to help well-being of young people in socio- economically deprived areas.
“Kapo” as she is known, is an absolute giant of Women’s Rugby – having made nearly 400 match appearances for Richmond FC. Laura is never afraid to be the voice of honesty and advocacy for the women's game, battling and overcoming significant personal adversity – Laura, is a true example of perseverance, resilience, and determination. Often providing the administrate back bone withing the rugby environments, she is a confident and competent Chairwoman and now sits on the RFU Independent Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Group.
Maggie Alphonsi is one of the faces of international women’s rugby – she represented her country an impressive 74 times, scored 28 tries, won a World Cup and helped England win a record breaking seven consecutive Six Nations crowns. Since retiring, Maggie has continue being an inspiration and in 2015 became the first ever former female player to commentate on men’s international rugby when she was signed up by ITV for the Rugby World Cup. Maggie continues to work with ITV Sport, Sky Sports and the BBC, as well as writing for the Telegraph and sits on the RFU Council.
Maxine Edwards won 45 caps throughout her 25-year rugby career, juggling work and parenting with a demanding training schedule. Having studied at the University of Greenwich and worked as a business analyst, she was qualifying as a teacher when named as the new captain of the England women’s team and leading them out for the first-ever international women’s match at Twickenham Stadium. A veteran of three Rugby World Cups, she was awarded an MBE in 2010 for services to rugby.
Paul served in the RAF before becoming a Bristol Rugby legend – his playing career spanning the amateur and professional era, making 289 first team appearances for the club. He was capped four times and toured South Africa with England in 1994, where he was introduced to President Nelson Mandela. He became the first British black person to be a Head Coach in the Premiership, followed by a role as Chief Scout and a spell coaching the England Saxons. He is currently the RFU’s Head of Professional Game Match Officials.
Georgie – as she is known to everyone – grew up in a small village near Bridgend, one of two non-white kids in a school of 1600. She went from there, via playing Netball for Wales, to become the face of the English women’s game, captaining both Wasps and England. A hard-tackling, hard-working, deeply passionate full back, she was a trail-blazer who set standards. She was England’s first black captain and earned 75 caps, 30 of them as captain. She was the first woman to be on the cover of Rugby World magazine, in 2002. After playing she went on to be a photographer and videographer, working in rugby. A recent project being a story-telling project bringing together legends from the past history of the women’s game with their current day equivalents to meet and share stories with one another.
Also known as the ‘Bulldozer’, Zainab is a neonatal nurse by profession and a rugby player by passion. She currently plays for Richmond and has the dream of being the first black Muslim woman to play for the Red Roses. A strong believer of ‘you have the see it to be it,’ she is doing some amazing work to show black, Muslim women that they can play the game. Zainab will carry on 'bulldozing' her way through the game - being different and standing out is no longer a negative for her and using it to make rugby truly diverse.
A Bath Academy stalwart, Beno Obano made his senior Bath debut in 2015, making his first Premiership appearance in the same year. Playing loose head, with physical skills in abundance, Beno is fast becoming a set piece master operator and received his first England cap against Scotland in 2021. In 2020, Beno burst on to the documentary making field with his Directorial debut “Everyone's Game” – producer, Director, International Rugby player and Prop, Beno is bound by nothing.
Ellis started his rugby career with Bristol Bears before moving to Leicester in 2016, and re-joining his old club again in 2022. He has been refreshingly vocal on his personal challenges on the way to being recognised as one of the very best looseheads in the world. Ellis was named in World 15 team of the year in 2022, after successfully captaining Leicester to their first title triumph in 9 years.
Shaunagh only picked up a rugby ball seven years ago but didn’t come as too much as a surprise when she pulled on the Red Roses shirt a year later. She announced retirement recently, but her list of accolades not only this year; being part of the team to reach the Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand, but her career as a whole which has shown young black girls that rugby can be for them. We wish her all the best and thank her for her contributions to rugby
At just 20 years old, Sadia has shown how you can rise through the pathway system – connecting RFU initiatives, like the All Schools programme to the performance pathway, showing how to grow a rose. Sadia really broke through at last year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand winning a player of the match performance against Fiji and featuring regularly as part of the 23. Sadia plays for Loughborough Lightning in the Allianz Premier 15s and has a bright future ahead.
The Rugby Black List is positioned to help shine a light on black professionals and volunteers alike working, playing and volunteering in rugby union. The aim of the event is to inspire the next generation of leaders in sport. This includes the community game, talent pathways, and the elite game. Administrators, coaches, referees, volunteers, players, leaders and senior decision makers: there is a place for everyone in our game.
Attendees included Peers from the House of Lords, community club leaders, national and international rugby representatives and players, governing bodies, major UK media outlets and other black inclusion leaders and stakeholders.
We would like to thank the Rugby Football Union for their support, Kori Youth Charity, Roc Nation Sports International, Barrington Hibbert Associates, Sporting Equals, Badger Commerce, and Refresh Sports Consultancy and Productions for being The Rugby Black List’s first ever partners.