Rugby Union has a race issue. It’s uncomfortable to talk about or even acknowledge but it’s true. 70% of NFL players are black but when comparing that figure to the English game, the number drops to just 10%. Now, some of England’s top players have come together for Everybody’s Game, a new Amazon Prime documentary that attempts to shed light on the issue in a friendly, yet informative way.
Led by Bath and England star Beno Obano, this documentary, which follows All or Nothing, Andy Murray: Resurfacing and Fernando, is the latest gem to come off the Prime production line. It may not feature the thrills and spills of some of the others but what we do get is a true insight into life as a BAME rugby player, and how most of them fell into the sport more through luck than judgement.
Obano himself, warm, chirpy and full of life in his pieces to camera, was obsessed with football. In fact, he had quite the talent, with trials at Fulham and Charlton Athletic but was told he was carrying slightly too much weight to make it. Instead, his route into the game came when he joined Oratory School in Year 7, where his power made him a top rugby player at the school.
The glint in his eye and smile on his face really make this documentary. Along with Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson and many other superstars of the game, the straight-talking to camera actually works well, as you get to know each individual's personality, journey in the sport and quirks without the frills.
Across sixty minutes it also covers the portrayal of black athletes in the media, highlighting one particular post-match Six Nations interview with Ellis Genge where he drank a beer after a victory and the subsequent reaction by the press - when most white athletes would have been perceived as ‘normal lads’ - the reaction to Genge was much more negative. Another underlying theme is the class divide which has ruled rugby union since its inception. The simple fact is this, there are fewer black athletes in the sport, not because they aren’t good enough, but because they aren’t given the opportunity to go to elite schools which play rugby.
The mould of a rugby union player is your well-educated white schoolboy, but these players, front and centre in Everybody’s Game, are breaking that mould and giving BAME youngsters the role models which they lacked themselves. Congratulations Beno, you’ve done yourself proud.
Everybody’s Game is available on Amazon Prime.