READING: A follow up the book will be released later this year
READING: A follow up the book will be released later this year

As any rugby league player will know, the feeling of breaking through the opposition’s defence to score a try is one of the greatest experiences they can have on a playing field.

For Ikram Butt however, it wasn’t only the opposing 13-players he was looking to overcome, but a host of well established barriers that needed breaking down in the sport.

As the first British Asian player to represent England in any code of rugby, the 47-year-old pioneered the way for future generations to build a career in the action-packed game.

Twenty years on from his debut, he released his first book – ‘Tries and Prejudice’ in 2009, and now, ahead of another big year for the rugby advocate, he is looking to release a follow up.

“When writing a book with 12 chapters, you would think there would be a lot of room for all these memories, but when you break it down, you are actually quite limited,” he said.

RUGBY LEAGUE: Ikram Butt’s first book, ‘Tries and Prejudice’ is now available on Kindle
RUGBY LEAGUE: Ikram Butt’s first book, ‘Tries and Prejudice’ is now available on Kindle

“I’m lucky in a way that I am able to share even more experiences and recollections of challenges from my playing days and after retirement through the release of another book.

“I suppose you can say it’s a follow-up and it focuses on some of the gaps in the journey not covered in the previous publication and an account of memorable moments leading up to the present day.”

Ikram debuted for England’s Rugby League side in 1995, and enjoyed a successful club career with the likes of Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Rovers, Huddersfield Giants and London Broncos.

Today, he acts as the founder of the British Asian Rugby Association (BARA), works with the White Ribbon campaign as their sports campaign manager, and is nationally recognised as an influential Asian role model.

His first book examined the world of rugby from a previously unknown standpoint in the 90s, highlighting the need for awareness, education and a greater scope to attract young British Asian talent to local clubs.

Commenting on the progress rugby has made since those days, Ikram remains somewhat disappointed.

“The governing body are still struggling to engage with the Asian communities to break through the system,” he said.

“20 years on we are still facing the same problems we were in the past, so I would say any progress we have made has only been small.”

Speaking with his ‘BARA-hat on’, Ikram adds that he is continuing to knock on doors so that wider communities get involved with the sport.

“We are still looking for a breakthrough in the sport,” he said, “Through BARA we try to promote the sport as much as we can and present an opportunity for different communities to excel.

“By their own admission, top clubs are falling behind in their scope of young talent but BARA has been there for ten years and has been working to correct this trend.

“We have been approached by clubs and governing bodies, asking why they are struggling to interact with the ‘hard to reach communities’.

“We tell them every time that there is no such thing as ‘a hard to reach community’, they are simply using the wrong approach. The reality is, different people respond to different kinds of engagement.”

Ikram’s new book, the title of which is not yet confirmed, will be released in the not too distant future. It will be published by Scratching Shed with well respected journalist, Tony Hannam, who has decided to once again work alongside Ikram.

Meanwhile, ‘Tries and Prejudice’ has just been released on Kindle, giving a global audience the chance to read his unique journey in rugby league.