The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have expressed concern that a lack of opportunities and student initiations are turning players away from university rugby teams. An investigation by The Times has shown that initiations for student rugby clubs around the country can range from “chilli powder being applied to sensitive areas”, and “players having to fish dead rats out of buckets with their mouths”.

The Times notes that these sort of initiations are banned by universities, but can still often occur under the guise of ‘welcome drinks’. The RFU have stated that they fear as many as 10,000 recent school leavers have stopped playing rugby union since the end of last season.

At UEA, initiations have been officially banned since 2012, following an incident with the Men’s Rugby team. SU research also suggested the practice of initiations proved to exclude LGBT+ and BaME students from sports due to the lack of clarity on what an initiation can be.

The SU, UEA Sport, and the Student Support Service (SSS) all work together closely on the issue. The SU Code of Conduct currently states that members of clubs who host initiations can “involve removing any or all privileges of membership of the SU including LCR access, [and the] right to participate in a club.”

In serious cases the Code also allows the issue to be referred into the University disciplinary code which can impact a students’ overall student status and right to attend UEA.

SU Activities and Opportunities Officer Camille Koosyial told Concrete “What can seem like a ‘bit of fun’ can cause real harm both physically and mentally” to students.

Ms Koosyial continued: “Making sports and activities more inclusive and accessible is something that I’m really passionate about – and the evidence shows that initiations put people off that would otherwise be top UEA sportspeople.

“[The SU] are working with Sports Clubs, UEA Sport and Student Support Services on a project that will better educate students about the dangers. Any student concerned about an initiation issue can raise it confidentially via advicecentre@uea.ac.uk”

UEA Rugby Sport club captain Tom Follows, and President James Murphy, both told Concrete explicitly that “[The rugby team] don’t do initiations.” Instead, they just “go to the bar and bond.”