The UEA Men’s First and Second Hockey Teams have been suspended pending an investigation into an alledged violation of the Union of UEA Students’ (UUEAS) code of conduct. 28 players from both teams – around half of the UEA Men’s Hockey Club – have been temporarily suspended from participation in union sports clubs, including matches and training, following the alledged breach.
An email, seen by Concrete, that was sent to the players last Thursday, says: “It has been alleged that on Wednesday 14th October, the first X1 and second X1 hockey were involved in activity that may have been in breach of the union’s code of conduct”. Concrete understands that the accusations relate to the following subsections of the code: “threatening or harassing any other person, whether physically or verbally; assaulting any other person; acting in contravention of the union’s equal opportunities policies; acting without due regard for the safety of others; infringement of equal opportunities, safe space, no platform or staff protocol policies; organising initiation ceremonies”.
Any member of UUEAS is subject to it’s code of conduct “while… representing or acting on behalf of the union at any event of whatever kind and wherever held”.
Speaking off the record, a well-placed union source said that the allegations will not be made more specific to prevent the club from preparing a defense prior to the official investigation.
The events in question occurred on the return journey to UEA after the first XI played Oxford and second XI played Oxford Brookes on 14th October and quickly became the subject of intense and lurid speculation on social media. UUEAS released a statement about the allegations, stating that they are “supported by video evidence” and that the behaviour of the two teams “if proven, would constitute a serious breach of the code of conduct. The two teams have been suspended pending an investigation, which will begin as soon as possible. It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst the investigation is ongoing”.
The players involved have been informed by the union that due to “clause 16.1 of the code in cases involving gross misconduct” they are liable to “a period of suspension of membership rights… whilst an unhindered investigation is conducted”.
The union has decided that “any member of the UEA Hockey Club that travelled to or from Oxford on October 14th has now had this right [to participate in union activities] suspended and no activity under the auspices of the club may take place until the suspension has been lifted”. Concrete understands that the offical union investigation will take place at some point this week.
Richard Shapland, the President and Captain of the UEA Hockey Club, spoke exclusively to Concrete about the allegations. He claimed that he “can’t think of anything that went on that was that much too far for the union to see fit to suspend 28 players. It might be something to do with just one or two people, which, for them to suspend two full teams – forcing us to concede two matches – seems heavy-handed”.
Asked about the extent of his knowledge of what went on, Shapland said he had “received no official word”, adding: “I don’t know whether its something relatively minor – whether I should be looking at some major procedural changes within the club – or whether it’s a matter of reprimanding one or two people”.
Despite Shapland’s denial, he concedes that there may have been a problem in terms of general behaviour that went unnoticed by the committee: “There were a couple of incidents of gay chicken, which may have made a few people feel uncomfortable. But it’s certainly not something that we in any way make people do.
He continued: “It’s quite possible that this is something there is video evidence of – quite a few people have phones out on the bus, quite a few people are Snapchatting… It is possible. I have to say that, throughout, I was doing my absolute best to make sure that there was no one who looked anything other than entirely comfortable with the situation”.
“As club captain I very much wanted to make sure that everybody was comfortable. In the distant past there have been issues with people taking things too far and I’m okay for members of the committee to behave as they want to – I know that as pesident I can sit there and if people do look uncomfortable then I can remove them from that situation, which I always wanted to do”.
“I honestly don’t think that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable – and obviously if it comes to it and I’m wrong I will absolutely eat my words and say we got it wrong. But I think it’s one of those situations where you have to judge it one way or the other and I don’t think we got it wrong”.
He expressed understanding for the union’s position and agreed that “they are bound by policy in things like this”.
Shapland hopes that the issue can be resolved as fast as possible: “something like this dragging on – especially when it’s possibly a very minor thing – we don’t want it to drag on and essentially punish the 25 other people who weren’t even involved”.
The hockey club has been forced to forfeit two matches within the league due to the suspension.