Irish rugby pundit Neil Francis sacked over Marcus Smith comments
Francis, working as a pundit for the Irish Independent’s The Left Wing podcast, made an apparently racist remark about Smith, who is of mixed British and Filipino heritage and was born in Manila.
“A Harlequins out-half with a David Beckham haircut and an Oompa Loompa tan…you just couldn’t throw him in,” said Francis, who won 36 caps for Ireland from 1987-1996.
Quins said in a statement: “Harlequins is disgusted by racist comments made by Independent.ie columnist Neil Francis on the paper’s rugby podcast, The Left Wing, about Harlequins, England and British and Irish Lions fly-half Marcus Smith on July 14.
“The club firmly believes that there is no room for racism in any part of society, let alone professional sport.”
Former Quins star Ugo Monye, a former Lions and England wing, hit back at Francis on social media.
“The fact Neil Francis said what he did is appalling, but to publish it & no one challenge him is as equally appalling,” Monye tweeted.
The Lions have also complained about the comment.
The PA news agency has contacted the Irish Independent for comment. The parent company behind the newspaper have now confirmed that Francis’s contract has been terminated.
A spokesperson for Mediahuis Ireland said: “Neil Francis’s remarks were unacceptable and he has apologised for them.
“The comments were initially released in the podcast last week but were subsequently removed by our production team a short time later. This should have happened before it was released and we apologise for the error.
A statement from Neil Francis said: “During a podcast for The Left Wing recorded on Wednesday the 14th of July I made comments about the Harlequins and England out-half Marcus Smith where I stated that he had ‘a David Beckham hair style and an Oompa Loompa tan’.
“I was, I suppose making comment on how backs in particular turn out when they enter the field.
“At all stages this is what I meant by those comments.
“Marcus Smith is of English/ Filipino heritage and some of the media comments at the moment have made mention that I have racially abused the player.
“I would never intentionally or wilfully make a comment to disparage somebody on the basis of the colour of anyone’s skin. Never! The comments have been interpreted differently from what I intended and I apologise sincerely for that.
“I fully apologise for any offence taken by the player and his family. I intend to apologise directly to him shortly if he is agreeable. I also apologise to anyone who also took offence to what I said.”
additional reporting PA
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now