Sussex rugby boys: We’re actually good guys

Stop blaming us for everything

Sadly, it feels like only yesterday that my fingers drifted across the clacking keys of my keyboard to pen an article defending Sussex Rugby from being a group of bigoted misogynists who just want to down pints and shag.

Yet now I find myself having to do the same once more, as the club has been under attack yet again following a recent incident that occurred at a bus stop one Wednesday night.

Almost instantly following the incident, social media was full of posts decrying Sussex Rugby and talking about how we were all part of “lad culture” and using words such as “rape apologists”.

All this came  before any sort of investigation had taken place.

team mates

The Sussex Rugby committee were summoned and the immediate reaction of the Activities Officer was to push towards having the society disbanded and our ban reinstated.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the union to determine that not a single member of Sussex Rugby was involved in the incident.

When contacted, a Students’ Union spokesperson said, “The men’s rugby club were not summoned to a meeting. It was quickly confirmed, both directly to them and publicly, that they were not involved in the incident.

“The Union’s Activities Officer did not call for the club to be disbanded or for their ban to be reinstated. She has been actively working with the men’s rugby committee to help the club develop and succeed following the return to the Students’ Union’s sports programme.”

SU statement

The issue here is far greater than this single incident. The perception that Sussex Rugby are all innately terrible human beings simply for playing a sport seems to be hammered into the collective subconscious of Sussex University and in particular the Student Union.

Despite the number of charity events that the committee and club have been involved in over the past couple of years. Despite the fact that many of us still wear our anti-homophobia rainbow laces to every game. Despite the fact that our committee were named committee of the year last year.

Does a harmful type of lad culture exist in rugby? Possibly. But it bloody well doesn’t at Sussex. We have boys in our club from around the UK and the world. We have boys from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

I myself came out as non-heterosexual partly because I gained confidence in myself from playing rugby. I was worried that my own sexuality would be an issue and at times a few things may have been said here and there, but when that has happened I’ve gone to my committee and they’ve dealt with it.


Me on the pitch

Gareth Thomas, an openly gay former Welsh International, feared for much of his life he would never be accepted into the sport. When he finally came out it was his team mates who were there for him. That’s the kind of environment rugby fosters.  My committee make it clear that regardless of how much you drink or if you consider it just “banter” we don’t tolerate racism, homophobia, xenophobia or any sort of hate in our club.

At this stage I’m not sure what more can be done to point out how wrong the stereotype of dumb, macho and intolerant rugby players can be done. It appears to me that our rugby society and others around the country have been working incredibly hard with campaigns to show that rugby is all about inclusion and respect. That being a part of rugby is about respect, team spirit and dedication not misogyny or prejudice.

Sussex University needs to understand that there is no demonic entity called the Rugby Club, just individual men who all love playing a sport with an egg shaped ball and who want to have fun with and support each other. Those who got the club banned with their behaviour are gone, our code of conduct is written and enforced. It specifically bans any sort of prejudice regardless of whether it’s in earnest or joke.

It’s time to stop blaming us and start supporting us, because we’re your team and we want our uni backing us as that 16th  man on the pitch. When it comes to equality we want to stand with you in return.