A RUGBY club is showing the red card to hate crime by educating players and coaches about abuse.
Bolton Rugby Union FC has been talking to members between aged five and 19 about the seriousness of hate crime.
More than 120 young people attended a hate crime awareness event at the club in Avenue Street, off Chorley Old Road, which was backed by Sale Sharks players Sam Bedlow, Andy Broadhurst and David Seymour.
Sgt Kevin Wright and PC Neil McMahon, from Bolton Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, spoke about hate crime along with Daniel Ladd, from Bolton Council’s community services.
Resma Patel, represented Bolton’s Interfaith Youth Groups, and Harry Kay, an under 16s player, also spoke at the evening.
Peter Gore, deputy junior chairman at the club, said: “The children are very much the future of our rugby union club. We want them to play in safety. Rugby union is a tough game and the children don’t need grief on the pitch.
“We are concerned hate crime is coming into social media and we want to nip it in the bud.”
He added: “I think some of the children didn’t know what they had been hearing was hate crime. It’s knowing the difference between a bit of banter and taking it too far. I don’t think we realise how much we can upset people.”
Mr Gore said early intervention will help to educate the children who will be able to use the knowledge while on and off the pitch.
The club got involved in raising awareness about hate crime after the club received a boost from Bolton Council.
Members of the club’s first team received training and have spoken to children through to university students at a series of talks.
Eraina Smith, Bolton RUFC safeguarding officer, told people at the event earlier this month that people should not suffer in silence and can raise any concerns with their coaches. The club takes a zero tolerance approach to the abuse.
Mr Gore said he hopes the evening will also encourage players to key an eye out for hate crime incidents. He said the club revealed that many of the parents, players and officials had experienced bullying when they were younger and when it was not common to complain — a habit the club is hoping to stamp out.
Det Insp Charlotte Cadden, the hate crime spokesman for Bolton police, said: “Raising awareness about hate crime is particularly important with young people because we get very few reports from victims.
“We hope people will challenge people when they hear negative stereotypes.”
Police hope members of the club will pass on what they have learned to their peers. Officers hope people will have the courage to report incidents of hate crime, particularly disability and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender incidents which are not widely reported.
A Bolton Council spokesman said: “As part of Hate Crime Awareness Week in January, Bolton Council provided funding to a number of organisations to provide training or hold events to raise awareness of hate crime.
“We were pleased to award funding to Bolton Rugby Union Club to provide additional training sessions in schools and for its members combined with hate crime awareness training which emphasised the rugby ethos of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship.
“We hope that this training and awareness raising will raise the profile of hate crime and encourage people to take a stand against it.”
Reports of hate crime can be made via report-it.org.uk, or through one of Bolton’s third party reporting centres which can be found at bolton.gov.uk or call police on 101.