UBRFC raw chicken liver incident proves rugby culture has gone too far
The club clearly lacks tolerance for players that don’t fit a certain mould
A recent investigation by The Bristol Tab uncovered the news that rugby freshers at the University of Bristol were made to eat raw chicken livers, resulting in at least three people falling ill. Since, the Social Sec has been removed from his post.
During the investigation we learnt of other behaviour that ritually occurs at rugby socials.
The events have, as one of our interviewees phrased it, exposed the "deeply-rooted issues" of the social side of rugby at uni.
Everybody's kind of aware of what goes on. The odd article or rumour reaches you, and you're shocked at the antics. Unis say they're stamping it out, and everyone pretends things have stopped. But it's got an impact on people playing rugby.
"Not everyone is a huge rugby ‘lad’ that loves everything to do with it," a UBRFC player told us, under condition of anonymity. "I think some people become badly impacted by the way they are treated.
"Sometimes more vulnerable lads are made to feel like they must go to socials in order to make friends, and then spend loads of money to be humiliated and to get blackout drunk," they told us. "I don’t understand how that can be considered fun or attractive at all."
Another concurred: "I know plenty who don’t play because of the stigma."
And it does put players off. 10,000 students in the UK have decided to give up playing rugby union recently, in order to avoid the activities that go on, according to an estimate by the RFU.
It was not long ago since The Manchester Tab exposed initiations involving apple-bobbing with rats, where freshers had to fish dead rats out of a barrel of cider using only their mouths. From Cardiff came stories of naked sumo wrestling and kissing a real pig's head. This is all in spite of Students’ Unions and universities banning initiations.
The action taken by the Bristol SU in light of recent events, has been minimal as they "have not received a formal complaint or an eyewitness account on what happened."
Like it or not for the clubs, these are what come to define rugby culture. Rugby clubs are angry when attention is drawn to them endangering their members, at the expense of coverage of their charity work.
UBRFC's club captain accused The Bristol Tab of jumping on "the anti-rugby bandwagon" when the story of freshers being made to eat raw chicken liver came to light. Cardiff Uni's rugby club, again, said they were upset we weren't focusing on their extensive charity work.
Yes, these incidents don't represent rugby as a whole. But they happen. And the stigma comes from them happening, not from them being reported.
That's frustrating to the players. Another UBRFC member told us that such incidents lead to "gross generalisations of holistic rugby culture."
Some acknowledge this, but to date, UBRFC have not issued an apology, denounced the behaviour, or made any suggestion that reform will come from within. Instead, the captain warned members against speaking out.