We all love rugby and we all bleed red – that is the core message of a campaign launched today by the Canterbury Rugby Union.

We All Bleed Red is an initiative aimed at clubs and schools throughout Canterbury, which calls on everyone involved in the game to take an active role in eliminating all forms of discrimination.

Canterbury Rugby Union CEO Nathan Godfrey said it is important the rugby community takes a united approach to confronting this subject: “Clubs and schools are the life-blood of Canterbury Rugby; so we are calling on players, coaches, supporters and administrators to call out discrimination.

“A key part of continuing to grow the game at grassroots level is making it accessible to all, so it is vital that we create an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity” Mr Godfrey said.

Mr Godfrey said the campaign has been developed in response to the increase in racial abuse complaints coming to the Union last year, which he became aware of when he took on the CEO role at the start of 2017.

“The vast majority of the rugby community in Canterbury were appalled to hear about these recent cases of racial abuse in our grassroots game. The CRFU wanted to take a strong leadership position by sending a clear message that racial abuse; and any form of discrimination including referee abuse, class, gender, sexuality or physical disability, will be met by a zero tolerance response.” Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said Canterbury Rugby’s We All Bleed Red initiative shows us how we can take a stand against racist abusive behaviour and stand up for victims.

“Racial abuse isn’t just a rugby or a Canterbury problem: it’s a New Zealand problem and it’s up to all of us to face it, to call it out and to get rid of it,” said Dame Susan.

“Canterbury Rugby’s stand is a courageous one we can all be proud of. The most powerful way we can make a difference is when together we stand up to abusers and let them know their abuse is not welcome nor allowed.

“We are all responsible for the kind of community we live in. I would like to pay tribute to those adult and schoolboy players, coaches and supporters who refused to silently accept racist abuse and instead stood up for their – and all of our – right to play a sport without being racially abused.

“This is about the rugby community making a stand about the kind of people they are and what they are not willing to tolerate on our rugby fields, or anywhere in society. We think that is fantastic and we applaud the CRFU for its leadership,” Dame Susan said.

In addition to the campaign, the Canterbury Rugby Union has been working with New Zealand Rugby and the Children’s Commissioner to make changes to the judicial process in relation to complaints involving youth. The changes, which apply to Under 18 rugby and below, will be trialed by the Canterbury Rugby Union this year before New Zealand Rugby makes a decision on what changes could be adopted nationwide.

An independent Designated Disciplinary Officer (DDO) with specific experience in dealing with youth offending has been appointed to deal with misconduct complaints involving youth and a new Community Group Conference process based on restorative justice practices will be introduced, facilitated by a youth justice expert.

An additional Judicial Committee will also be formed to deal specifically with red cards issued to youths and misconduct issues that cannot be resolved through the Community Group Conference process. The committee will be made up of people with appropriate experience in dealing with youth.

New guidelines for the Community Group Conference and Judicial Committee hearings for youth will include:

  • Ensuring the physical setting is child friendly;
  • Questions must be provided to the Judicial Committee 24 hours in advance; •The hearings can’t sit beyond 8pm;
  • Lawyers may only act as observers;
  • Cross-examination will only occur in exceptional circumstances and only with the permission of the Convenor;
  • The hearings will be strictly confidential.


Mr Godfrey acknowledged the input of the Human Rights Commission and Office of the Children’s Commissioner in these two pieces of work: “These are fairly sensitive subject matters, but hiding from the issue wasn’t an option for us. So having the advice and support of these organisations has been essential and has given us the confidence to push ahead with a campaign that we really believe in.” To find out more about the We All Bleed Red campaign, visit www.weallbleedred.co.nz

Individuals can pledge their support via the We All Bleed Red web page or Instagram account: weallbleedred_crfu