Black History Month joined forces with the Sports Society for a second time this term, hosting former rugby player and current pundit Ugo Monye. Mr Monye spoke to a virtual audience about his career playing with Harlequins, England and the British and Irish lions, as well as his thoughts on race relations in rugby.
Rugby had been the main route to ‘fitting in’ at Mr Monye’s school, and after successful county trials he went on to a highly impressive career, making over 200 appearances for Harlequins and 14 international appearances for England. His proudest moment, he recalled, was scoring a try from an intercepted pass in the third test match.
However, Mr Monye also spoke honestly about the daunting experience of walking into the Harlequins dressing room for the first time, and the challenge of securing a two-year deal at the club, having not played any minutes during his first season.
His journey with Harlequins was marked by ups and downs, including relegation in 2005, the Bloodgate scandal in 2009 and winning the European championship in 2011.
His career in professional rugby was also been marked by racism, and his experience of racial slurs and stereotypes, particularly at the beginning of his career. He believes representation is key in the sport, and was pleased that 1/3 of the England squad at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan were from BAME backgrounds. It is noticeable, however, that a lack of diversity is very visible at boardroom level.
Mr Monye now works as a pundit and commentator, and loves his current role, remarking that it is like being “a fan with a microphone”.