Hello Sports Clubs,
The season is underway and I hope that it is going well for you and that you have recruited lots of new members. I am also aware that it is the time of year that you like to welcome your new recruits.
Over the past few weeks, initiations – or welcome parties – at universities across the country have received media attention. Some of these have resulted in serious illness and all of them deterred people from playing sport. This year for example, the RFU (Rugby Football Union) reported that 10,000 students who go from secondary school to university stop playing rugby because of these types of events.
I know most of you think that it’s not bullying or intended to drive people away, but that it happened to you, it’s part of university sport and now you have the right to do it to someone else. You don’t. People may be struggling with their sexuality, they may have a poor body image, they may have been subjected to abuse or have mental health issues that may be triggered by these types of events. Not knowing about people’s innermost issues is no excuse, out of 20 or 30 people the chances are high that a number of people will be made to feel beyond uncomfortable.
I know this is a tradition and something many people look forward to. I know this may have happened to you and you feel you’ve earned the right to do it to new members. But would you do this if you knew it would trigger something genuinely traumatic and leave them feeling alone and vulnerable? Is it worth recruiting less members, which means less money and smaller squads? Is this more important than a successful season? Ask yourself – would you go through this for a job?
We can do this differently. We can make it inclusive, give people a choice or alternatives. And we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people regardless of colour, religion, orientation, gender or willingness to participate.
We are all MMU, we are all in the AU and we all want to see our clubs succeed by performing, growing membership or socialising together. So let’s grow our AU and create an environment where we support each other and encourage the other 36,000 students who don’t play sport to support us.
It doesn’t matter what you call the event. If it involves forced participation or humiliating people, it really isn’t acceptable. If we receive complaints we will act on them. One night of well-intentioned bullying isn’t worth your potential expulsion and the disbanding of your club. If you have been affected by these issues, you can contact our Advice Centre.
- Owen Jones, Activities Manchester