EX-GATESHEAD Thunder star Tabua Cakacaka believes rugby league could learn a thing or two from football when it comes to handling complaints of racism.
The Fijian international has outlined his own experiences of alleged racist abuse, the most recent of which saw no punishment handed out by the Rugby Football League (RFL).
Coming in the wake of the John Terry and Luis Suarez cases which rocked the round-ball game, Cakacaka said: “I am not a follower of football, but when I heard about the John Terry incident I thought there were a lot of similarities to my own experience at Rochdale in May.” Cakacaka alleges he was racially abused and told to ‘go home’ during a 46-24 Championship defeat against Rochdale, although an RFL tribunal decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
He added: “The difference between that and my own case is the FA did at least find John Terry guilty of using racist language and issued a punishment, even if it was only two weeks’ wages or whatever.
“At least they reached a point of punishing him.”
Moving to the UK in 2005 after spells playing in Australia and France, Cakacaka said: “My experiences in Australia were totally different from here and in all my time there I never encountered one racist incident.
“Maybe they are more used to having Pacific islanders playing there or maybe the Australian Rugby League are just much stronger in dealing with it.”
Keen for his sport to learn from his own experience, Cakacaka added: “If a Fijian player came to me and asked my advice about moving to the UK, I would not stand in their way, but I would explain what has happened to me and let them make their own minds up.
“Having more guys like that playing here will only make the competition stronger and change people’s attitudes.” An RFL statement said: “Rugby League has a long and proud tradition of inclusivity.
“We were the first major sport in the UK to have a black athlete as national captain (Clive Sullivan, 1972).
“We were the first British sport to have a black coach in charge of one of its top clubs (Roy Francis at Leeds, 1974) and the first sport to have black coach in charge of the national team (Ellery Hanley, GB, 1994).
“In 1995, Ikram Butt became the first Asian player to represent England at either code of rugby.”