"The sense of community within sport is central to tackling racism"Pembroke and Girton Rugby Club

The last few weeks have seen inspired responses to the Black Lives Matter protests from within the Cambridge community. Some have shared resources, some have taken to the streets, and one student even created a website to produce personalised letters to MPs.

The Pembroke and Girton Rugby Club wanted to do something a bit different, however. Over the next few days, Pirton, as they’re more affectionately known, will be running 400 miles to raise money for the anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card.

“Drinking and partying will probably always be a part of rugby culture, but racism should never be.”

Max Murphy, the captain of Pembroke’s side, came up with the idea. He “felt that posting an Instagram story or signing a couple of petitions just wasn’t good enough” and quickly began discussing alternative ideas with Tom Allen, the captain of Girton’s side.

As a sports club, they wanted to do some form of physical exercise, and many ideas were floated, including trying to hit a certain number of reps weightlifting. However, they eventually settled on running, since, in the words of Allen “there’s no exercise more gruelling”. After three months of lockdown comfort eating, I can’t argue with him about that.

The entire team will be taking part, and they will be helped along by alumni. There is even a Pembroke DoS getting involved, who, as Allen jokes, has not only been a vital part of Pirton this year but also his lectures.

If running 400 miles wasn’t enough of a challenge – and Murphy tells me it will be, as it’s “probably more than they have run all season” – they will be running in fancy dress outfits.

"It sounds like a bit of a laugh, but it's for a brilliant cause."Pembroke and Girton Rugby Club

It sounds like a bit of a laugh, but it’s for a brilliant cause. Show Racism the Red Card was established in 1996 with the purpose of tackling racism through educational workshops and training sessions. Taking advantage of the high-profile status of football and footballers to spread their message, it is testament to the power sport has in bringing about social change.

This power is clear to both captains. For Murphy, the sense of community within sport is central to tackling racism. “Rugby has always been about coming together and having fun – that’s what it should be about.” He tells me with conviction that “drinking and partying will probably always be a part of rugby culture, but racism should never be.”

When asked about the issue of “lad culture” within rugby, Allen adds “I don’t think there’s a need to change the view that rugby is played by a group of “lads”. What’s important is to change the image associated with a “lad”.”

“Rugby has always been about coming together and having fun."Pembroke and Girton Rugby Club

In fact, while both are proud of the success Pirton RC has achieved on the pitch this year, they only see it as one part of the club’s role. “Whilst we’re pleased that we’ve shown that we are a decent rugby side, we are more interested in showing our commitment to being as tolerant and inclusive as any sports team should be in 2020”, he explains. “We want to set an example not only to sports clubs in Cambridge but students around the country.”

And they’ve definitely set an example. So far, they’ve almost raised £2000 and are just over one third of the way towards completing their 400-mile target.

The fundraiser even caught the eye of the presenter Andi Peters, who tweeted “Congratulations to all of you and well done for DOING SOMETHING to open everyone’s eyes!” as well as World Cup winner Will Greenwood, who retweeted a post about it.


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This success does not distract Murphy from the sheer size of the fight against racism. “We all know that racism can’t be solved by raising a bit of money - it’s too ingrained in our society for that. But this felt like a good place to start.”

Murphy puts forward a good point. Initiatives like this do count for a lot, whether it’s by raising money, raising the boys’ stamina or simply by raising awareness.

Videos of the club’s progress will be posted to their Facebook and Instagram pages. You can donate to their fundraiser here and learn more about Show Racism the Red Card here.

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