Updated: 16:21 16 March. Following further information, the allegation that a member of the UEA RFC was dressed as Adolf Hitler has been removed.
The Men’s Rugby Club at UEA has been banned from existing in the next academic year.The Union of UEA Students has made the decision to ban the club following allegations of racism and sexism. The proposal will not affect general rugby playing on campus, the medic’s rugby team, the Women’s team or touch rugby.
Finance officer Rob Bloomer made the proposal public at Union Council last night. In an open letter to the committee and members of the club, the Union stated that: “The suspension of all activity will last until the start of the 2013/14 academic year. The club will then be restarted in the 2013/14 academic year with special measures in place to ensure that the new club does not follow the same path as the current club.”
The Union has also stated that members of the club who were at the events which were most recently complained about, namely Derby Day 2012 and the Men’s 2nd XV game on 14 March, will be banned from the Sports Association and from playing sport at UEA, unless the members of the club who were responsible are named in writing by 5pm on 23 March.
The club will have a chance to appeal the decision at the next Union Council. Any appeal would have to be submitted within seven days of the release of the letter. The grounds for appeal would be to take into account any new evidence the club can submit.
The President of the Men’s RFC, Andy Driver, told Concrete: “The club does not condone any of the acts we have received complaints about. However, we will be appealing, because we feel it would be better to further punish individuals rather than punishing the club as a whole. It is some immature, unruly individuals who are putting the club in a bad light. The majority of the club are just guys who enjoy playing rugby.”
When asked if other clubs will be shut down for misbehaviour, Rob Bloomer told Concrete: “It’s not that other clubs don’t behave badly sometimes. It is that rugby do it every year and they have had several final warnings. While individuals should be punished, it is a club’s responsibility to manage their members whilst on club activities, represent the University in a positive light and to ensure that their club is following the rules that the Union and University lay out.”The club has had a long history of misconduct. Concrete reported in March 2011 that the club was stripped of their 7s tournament after £1,300 worth of damage was caused at the Maid’s Head Hotel during their Christmas ball.
The club has also been criticised for their latest social, which allegedly saw some members dressed as Joseph Kony, Baby P, a Ku Klux Klan member and Gary Speed.
Speaking to Concrete, a UEA student who encountered club members last Wednesday night said: “The hockey club had a member from Germany and once this was found out, one of the rugby guys proceeded to chant about German bombers being shot down by the RAF and how we won the war. This upset our member and we asked them to stop. Some of their members were very reasonable and apologised on behalf of those members who had been chanting. However, the members who had chanted didn’t apologise and asked why we didn’t have a sense of humour about the issue.”
Andy Driver said: “Prospective students need to know that this is not what the RFC is about. Our club is extremely diverse; we clearly do not discriminate.”
Photo: A screengrab from Facebook showing members of the RFC on Wednesday night, with a student clearly dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The photo has since been removed from Facebook.
Read the Union’s open letter to the club.
Read the latest reactions and debate here.