Ugo Monye believes rugby union must address its “heavy drinking” problem and “laddish culture” to be fully inclusive.
Former England wing claims that some traditions of the sport do not “mirror” the “present day” or the “society”.
“Rugby, by the dynamics of the game is truly a game for all shapes, sizes, and physical aspects.” .
“It should reflect every individual attitude. It should reflect society in the best possible way.
Monye chairs the independent advisory group on diversity at the Rugby Football Union, at a moment when participation at grassroots level continues to decline.
He said: “There has been a heavy drinking culture in rugby. I also invested heavily in that during my playing days and it was a great experience.
“But if I were in Birmingham, a densely populated Muslim neighborhood, and my teenage children wanted to play rugby as a sport, my perception of the game would be: ‘All that they do after every match is to drink – I don’t want my kids to be a part.
“Rugby shouldn't be afraid to be what it is, but it should reflect the present and where we are as a society.”
Monye won 14 England caps. He also played in two British Lions Tests against South Africa, in which the Irish Lions lost. In 2009, Monye also won the Premiership title with Harlequins.
He said that he was in a “fairly laddish”, changing room while he was at Twickenham Stoop. This could have prevented some team-mates from being able express themselves fully.
Simon Miall, Monye’s former Quins team-mate, only publicly came out as gay after he had retired from the club in 2007, after five years of service.
Monye stated that Simon's retirement made you wonder, “oh my god, what kind environment did Harlequins create for Simon to feel uncomfortable enough?” He was able to do his best work at Harlequins, where he spent so much time with us, away trips, tours, preseasons. But, where did the pressure come?
“I believe we had what I would call a rather laddish changing area. I regretfully admit it, not because we were trying to harm people or upset them or anything like that. When that leads to someone not wanting to be their true selves in that environment, then you can begin to understand.