Premiership rugby ball used at Exeter Chiefs training
Premiership action, halted for five months by the coronavirus pandemic, resumes on Friday when Harlequins host Sale

All Premiership clubs will show support for the Black Lives Matter movement when the season resumes, although not all will take a knee before kick-off.

Bristol Bears, Northampton, Gloucester and Bath will show solidarity by having players unite in varying ways on the pitch before kick-off.

Other clubs, including Saracens, will wear shirts with anti-racism messaging.

A working group comprising of black players from across the league, plus former England international Ugo Monye and ex-England Sevens winger James Bailey, said in a statement endorsed by Premiership Rugby:external-link “We the players stand united in the fight against racism, and we are proud to support the positive message that Black Lives Matter.

“We are not endorsing a political ideology. We are uniting as players to combat racial discrimination, in our sport and in society.”

The Rugby Players’ Association added: “How each of our members choose to act in relation to this moment is a matter of their personal choice. We respect and defend their individual right to make that decision.”

Premiership action, suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, restarts on Friday with Harlequins hosting Sale Sharks at The Stoop.

Baxter ‘surprised’ by Premiership Rugby stance

Exeter have said they will “stand against racism” before their game at home to Leicester on Saturday, but have not disclosed what their gesture will be.

Director of rugby Rob Baxter is unhappy that Premiership Rugby have left it up to clubs to decide what would be an appropriate pre-game gesture to make.

“I’m a little surprised that Premiership Rugby went this way because I actually feel by just dropping it on clubs and saying ‘there you go, do what you like’ is a little bit like potentially hanging some players out to dry,” he told BBC Sport.

“I don’t really know how much positive press a player can necessarily get from it if they have a differing of opinion, which is something really we should all kind of embrace.

“The players have decided what they want to do and I’m going to leave them to do that on the weekend. They’ll very much take the stand that they want to stand together as rugby against racism, 100%.”

The Premiership leaders decided to keep their ‘Chiefs’ nickname earlier this month in response to calls from some fans to drop their Native American branding, but did retire their mascot.

‘We didn’t want to be divided, we want to be on the same page’

Bristol players will stand together in a heart-shaped ring before their game against Saracens on Saturday.

Speaking to BBC Sport, winger Luke Morahan explained why they decided against taking the knee.

“We’ve heard discussions, some teams are divided. We didn’t want to be divided, we want to be on the same page,” he said.

“We came up with a solution that really pleased everyone and showed support for the cause.

“We decided as a group what we’re about as Bristol and Bristolians and wanted to integrate love – that’s our culture, so we will form a heart-shaped ring.

“We’re a diverse group here in Bristol, not only in the team but also in the community.

“We’re all about sharing and equality within the community, so that’s our message that we’re putting out as a team.”

Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool take a knee
Players taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement happened in the Premier League when the competition resumed in June

How clubs support the Black Lives Matter movement is the first major public display the game will make after the competition was interrupted by the global health crisis.

Monye, speaking on the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast, said the individual stances of clubs was expected rather than the uniform approach taken in football’s Premier League, where all players in all matches took a knee when it restarted in June.

He said the Premiership was more likely to echo the approach of Formula 1, where some drivers chose not to take a knee but took part in pre-race demonstrations and wore anti-racism shirts.

“I don’t want people to jump to conclusions and assumptions that by people not taking the knee, that means they’re racist,” said Monye.

“What I’ve also tried to understand after speaking to a lot of people is that, within the Premiership, there’s a lot of different communities, cultures and different countries represented.

“Everyone has a different personal relationship with racism. So what it means for me might be slightly different to another person and the way they may want to mark it might look slightly different from me.”

‘Improving inclusion vital for progress and popularity’ of rugby union

While players and clubs will show their support for greater equality under the banner of “Rugby Against Racism” on the field, the Premiership has also committed to helping to improve opportunities for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) players in their pursuit of careers in coaching and refereeing, as well as opportunities in boardrooms.

There will also be a continued focus on trying to attract young players from BAME backgrounds to the game, while “recruitment practices and measurement of protected characteristics” of both staff members and players will be reviewed to “appropriately” track future progress.

Players will also be consulted to “build protocols ensuring all our professional players feel safe and protected”.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs acknowledged that “there is an urgent need for change”.

“Improving inclusion is vital for the progress and popularity of our sport,” he said.

“I wholeheartedly support the measures set out in our Rugby Against Racism programme and will be making sure these measures underpin Premiership Rugby’s strategy to make a tangible positive difference in our sport and society.”

Meanwhile, four people have tested positive from the 989 players and staff involved in the latest round of coronavirus testing at Premiership clubs.

Of the four positive tests, one is a player and three are members of staff.

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