[su_spoiler title=”Hockey team disciplined after bus antics” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]An investigation by the Union of UEA Students’s has concluded the UEA men’s hockey team broke the union’s code of conduct.
Concrete reported on 20th October that the club were under investigation following the emergence of video footage which appeared to show members of the hockey team participating in a game known as gay chicken in which players are encouraged to attempt to kiss and touch one another and continue until one player chooses to stop due to feeling uncomfortable and therefore is declared the looser and a ‘chicken’.
At the time Richard Shapland, President of Men’s Hockey, told Concrete “I honestly don’t think that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable”. However, following the outcome of the investigation in which the club were deemed to have acted “in contravention of the union’s equal oppotunities policies” Shapland has said “I was wrong”.
In a blog post apologising for the hockey team’s actions – extracts of which can be exclusively read in Concrete here – the President not only admits that the club was “wrong for the actions on that bus but has also called “on every sports team in the university to take part in equality and diversity workshops” in order to reduce homophobia in sport.
Last month we were suspended pending an investigation into an incident. We were shocked at the time – we couldn’t think of anything that was a problem, and I even said in an interview with Concrete that I would “eat my words” if I was wrong.
I was wrong, and it’s time for me to eat my words.
On the bus, we played a game of gay chicken – where players challenge each other physically, the first to pull away loses. Commonly this manifests itself as kissing, groping etc, and since we are all very competitive, it often gets spirited. Chicken is a relatively common game amongst teenagers, the gay aspect presents itself as we are an all male club.
I see now how terms like ‘homophobic’ and ‘initiations’ could be applied to this game and situation. Like many groups of friends, sports teams and hockey squads before us, we’ve played it before. The difference this time was that we Snapchatted it, and someone who saw it sent it into the union.
I’m glad they did. The problem with the game is that if a gay or bisexual man who was not completely comfortable with his sexuality was present on the bus, he could be made to feel degraded by the game. If someone new to the team does not know us well enough to know that there is an option of saying no, if they don’t feel comfortable talking to me or another senior player about their concerns, then it degrades the team cohesion and their respect for committee members.
Let me say clearly: we were wrong for the actions on that bus, and I was wrong in my assessment of the situation. During the union’s investigation, I’ve been reading up on LGBT+ participation in university sport- and the findings of an NUS study a couple years ago are stark.
One in five sports club students in the UK aren’t open to their team mates. They cite worrying reasons – that it might result in homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic abuse; concern that they might be ostracised within the team, not get picked, or ejected; and for trans students, worry that coming out might result in verbal or physical abuse.
So I’m calling on every sports team in the university to take part in equality and diversity workshops that we’ll be working with the union to put on. I want every sports club to sign a commitment to driving homophobia and other forms of discrimination out of sport. And I am only too happy to call on everyone – sports club member or not – to tell someone when they hear of or see behaviour that might be discriminatory – however well intentioned. In so many cases the person or people involved are not aware that it could be offensive to somebody, and when presented with information they can, and will, change their behaviour.
I don’t have excuses or justifications for what happened. What I do know is that we need to work together – UEA, UUEAS and sports clubs to foster an environment where all of us feel comfortable signing up to sports clubs, and taking part in sports teams during welcome week and beyond, and that means reminding those of us that run sports teams the impact of things that we might personally find comfortable, can have on others and sport in general.
President of Men’s Hockey