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Sports clubs under fire

There have been concerns over the behaviour of sports clubs demonstrated at the start of this academic year, a time when club initiations are commonly held.

A student has complained of being subjected to misogynistic taunts and remarks by Warwick Men’s Football Club, while the SU and University are launching an investigation into complaints about – and a video of – men allegedly of the Rugby club dressed in maid costumes and ‘mankinis’.

‘Sexist’ taunting
Warwick first-year History student Blessing Park has complained to the Boar of being taunted by the Football club on a ‘Uni Express’ bus on the night of Monday 27 October, the night of their club initiations.

Ms Park told the Boar she was chatting with football club captain Tom Alington, who informed her that they were initiating their freshers and encouraging them to tell a joke or a fact and then sing a song.

After Ms Park corrected a fresher on a fact he told, one of the senior leaders of the group apparently directed the boys to sing a song which Ms Park felt was aimed at her. The taunt was:

“shut the fuck up, do the fucking washing up.”

Ms Park said: “I made it clear that I was not going to take that, and the rest of the journey consisted of constantly being reminded of my place as a woman, being made fun of for standing up for myself and experiencing multiple sexist jibes and jokes at my expense.”

She recalled that some of the freshers quickly joined in the chant started by more senior members of the team. When she left the bus, she heard herself being called a “skank” and a “slut”.

“I turned around and asked whoever said that to come and say that to my face, I was met with a group of supposedly innocent faces.”

Ms Park told the Boar that she believes that the incident goes beyond what happened on Monday evening and that it opens up a larger concern surrounding lad culture.

She said that the problem was that the footballers were caught up in the ‘banter’ and did not realise that what they were saying was affecting others around them.

She added: “All it took was one of the boys in a position of authority to say ‘enough was enough’ and that this is not what their club was about.

“All it took was for someone to not call me standing up for myself a ‘rant’ and giving the fresher’s extra points for ‘pissing her off’. But they did not. They had every opportunity to say no and call it to an end, but instead, I got called a ‘bitch’.”

They had every opportunity to say no and call it to an end, but instead, I got called a ‘bitch’
Blessing Park

Tamara Moon, a first-year Politics and International studies undergraduate who was also on the bus with Ms Park said: “I cannot remember what was said, but I do know they were extremely rowdy and loud, and said something quite offensive. They were jumping up and down and singing songs.”

“We do not condone it”
Tom Alington, club captain of the football team and third-year Psychology student at Warwick stated: “We acknowledge that these comments are completely unacceptable, and the Football Club does not condone such behaviour.

“We were made aware of this situation and have contacted the complainant with the aim of meeting and identifying the culprits responsible, but to date have received no response.

“We are therefore currently unsure as to whether they were footballers or not, and thus extend this invitation a second time to help us identify the members she believes to be culpable.”

We are currently unsure as to whether they were footballers or not, and thus extend this invitation to help us identify the members she believes to be culpable
Warwick Men’s Football Club captain

According to Ms Park, Mr Alington did try to talk to her after she told him how unimpressed she was. She recalled that she was “absolutely furious” at that point and he was trying to apologise to her.

‘Weird’ initiation video
The incident comes after awareness of another incident involving sports club initiations. Warwick University and the Students’ Union (SU) have launched an investigation into a student initiation ceremony that involved semi-naked male freshers crawling on the ground in public while being yelled at by masked men.

It is alleged that the students were from Warwick’s Rugby club. The freshers taking part in the initiation were dressed in maids’ outfits and ‘mankinis’.

A video of the ceremony shows the students performing star jumps before being made to crawl on the piazza on campus, in public.

Masked men can be heard shouting at the freshers, ordering them to “stop looking up” and to keep their “face on the floor.”

The ritual is currently being investigated by the SU and the University after it was reported by two people.
Peter Dunn, a spokesperson for the University stated: “We were made aware of it through complaints from the public on campus that night and students pointing us in the direction of the online video.

“The University and the SU are investigating and will take the appropriate action at the end of those investigations.”

Initiation rules
Warwick sport issued a set of rules in 2013 in response to nationwide pressure to ban initiations. The policy states that club adoptions should be “fun, inclusive, non-threatening and safe.”

Ruby Compton-Davies, SU sports officer, added: “When clubs or societies propose holding inductions or initiations, all activities are subject to a rigorous planning process in line with the SU Adoptions Policy to ensure student welfare.

“At no time are participants required to consume alcohol or take part in any activity against their will, and all activities are fully supervised by sober members of the club’s exec committee. Participation is also not mandatory in order to join a club or society.

“In this instance, the actions reported deviated from the pre-submitted and approved plans. Several complaints were received from students and members of the public, and both the SU and the University will be holding a full and thorough investigation into these events.”

Read more about Ms Park’s account and the Football Club’s statement in the Features section

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