On Monday 23 April, representatives from UEA Men’s Rugby went to an emergency Union Council session in order to appeal against the one year ban. Despite the club’s claim that they were bringing “new evidence to the table,” Men’s Rugby lost the appeal. Union Council only just made quorum, with 28 of 41 voting members supporting the decision to disband the club, and thus UEA Men’s Rugby will not exist, unless they succeed with an appeal to the University.
The punishment of UEA Men’s Rugby was initially given after complaints of both racism and sexism. One of the complaints was that the team offended a member of UEA Hockey, a girl of German nationality, when they took part in an offensive chant named “10 German Bombers.” The allegations came after a social with the theme of “bad taste.” During the social, team members dressed up as controversial figures such as Joseph Kony and Baby P. Driver, speaking on the subject of the social, concluded that: “In hindsight, we can now see that this was a mistake, however, it was definitely not meant to offend anybody.”
The national interest in their story spiralled, ending up on the websites of the BBC, The Sun, The Mirror and The Mail. The allegations even made it as far as the News Track India website.
The aforementioned offences, along with a previous incident such as damage to a hotel in 2011, were brought back under scrutiny at Union Council.
However, the process took a dramatic turn, as Men’s Rugby blasted the Union officers for their “unprofessional” attitude towards the appeal and criticised the lack of investigation into the complaints, points which have been raised by students on the Concrete website.
Driver also claimed the ban violated natural justice, as well as the constitution of the Union and the Education Act of 1994.
Finance officer, Rob Bloomer, stated that the management committee felt it had made a thorough investigation into the complaints. In response to Men’s Rugby’s criticisms of the process by which the decision was made, Communications officer, Matthew Myles, stated: “I think what we’ve done in terms of the process of this decision was enough to allow us to make the decision. It may not have been perfect, and we agree that it should be improved.
“To me, how we got to the decision would only matter if we were missing information, but we aren’t missing anything and we weren’t missing anything. We know what happened, and that’s all that matters.” The Union also said in a public statement that: “The Union is confident that no laws have been broken, and the peers of UEA Men’s Rugby Club have considered the Union’s actions proper and constitutional through Student Officer Committee and Union Council”.
So, with accusations flying from both sides, what is next for the UEA Rugby team? While the team admits that it is still “deeply sorry” for its actions, it advocates that Men’s Rugby “never condoned any sort of racist or sexist behaviour.” The club has been putting together an appeal to the dean of students and hope to start a petition to enlist support from the student body. UEA Men’s Rugby has named the individuals responsible to the Union and feels strongly that it is them who should be punished.
Rob Bloomer told Concrete in an interview that there “will still be high level, managed sport going on at UEA. There should be a provision of sport and there should be the provision of as many sports as people want to do.” In Union Council he suggested an intermural rugby sevens tournament.
A large amount of support has been registered on social media from members of the student body, but with the Union having followed its procedures in banning the club, the views of these students will have no sway, no matter how loud many call for individuals to be punished, not the club.
There is, however, still a chance that the decision could be taken to a referendum, but there are no plans in place to do this.
The Union has released a “frequently asked questions” page on its blog.