Cumbria Police and its partner agencies have teamed up with leading figures from the rugby league community this week in a bid to tackle hate crime.

Police officers and representatives from Fire and Rescue, British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, North West Ambulance Service and Whitehaven RLFC gathered at the Recreation Ground in Whitehaven to raise awareness of the issue during Hate Crime Awareness Week.

The week aims to raise awareness of what hate crime is, how to respond to it, to encourage reporting and to promote local services and resources.

Cumbria Police have been working with rugby teams in Whitehaven and Workington to stamp out the problem, using the hashtag #TackleIt on social media.

Des Byrne, team manager at Whitehaven RLFC, said there had been occasions where players had been subjected to abuse on the pitch.

“We have two guys from Papua New Guinea. There’s odd times where people in the crowd have shouted derogatory remarks. That’s mainly supporters from other teams.”

However, he stressed that rugby league is “a very inclusive” sport.

“Everybody’s welcome - from kids, women, to physical disabilities teams. We’ve had players from all over the world playing for us and they’ve brought different cultures to Whitehaven. That’s broken down barriers.

“At the end of the day, if you support a club, the only thing you’re interested in is the shirt they wear. As long as they give 100 per cent, they will always be welcome.”

Jessie Joe Parker, who plays centre for Whitehaven’s rugby league team, said he had suffered abuse similar to players in the England football team, who were this week subjected to racist chants during a match against Bulgaria.

“It’s not nice. A similar incident happened to me. We played against Hunslet, I was holding my little daughter. It was Hunslet fans.

“I think it’s starting to come in rugby league. Football is worse than rugby but it’s sadly creeping into rugby. I think we need more campaigning and more awareness to try and stop that.”

PCSO Mark Fishpool of Cumbria Police, described the negative impact hate crime can have on people’s lives.

“It can affect people’s mental health, it can make them withdraw, not want to go out. They don’t feel they are a part of the community.”

Lousie Ainsworth, acting sergeant at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, added: “It’s incredibly upsetting for them. Nobody should be made to feel like that. It’s an incredibly distressing experience. It’s important that people are able to report it and understand that it will be dealt with and they will be believed.”

Detective Inspector Matthew Scott, force lead for hate crime, said: “It is great to see local sporting teams supporting us and emergency services to raise awareness of hate crime. There is no place for hate crime in Cumbria, and all reports will be fully investigated.

“These types of incidents are regularly unreported so we are continuing to work hard with partners and in local communities such as the Workington and Whitehaven rugby clubs to build relations ships and develop trust and confidence.

“Reporting a hate crime to the police can feel like a daunting process, which is why we would urge victims to talk to someone they trust, report it on the Cumbria Constabulary or anonymously through True Vision website.”

Hate Crime can be reported:

• By phone: Call 101 or 999 in an emergency

• Textphone: 18000 – the 101 number for people who are deaf or hearing of speech impaired

• In person: Visit a police station or police desk or approach an officer on patrol

• Online reporting form:

• True vision: