Northumbria students left feeling degraded after rugby initiations force dangerous drinking and naked humiliation
On Wednesday October 5 a Northumbria University rugby union night out turned foul as freshers were systematically humiliated by other squad players.
One talented first year, amongst a group of new players to leave in disgust, spoke to The Courier of how what was what was advertised as a ‘team-building’ social became an exercise in embarrassment.
He described how they were made to “drop their trousers and do press-ups” whilst “a crowd of people watched from the Students’ Union.”
He explained how in a city centre bar “everyone was in a circle, then freshers were made to go into the middle and dance naked”.
In addition, “second and third years chose freshers to hold up by their feet until they saw off whatever drinks were put in front of them.”
Walking around town they were forced to partake in a game dubbed ‘lunge’ in which members had to “try and get with” passing girls. In another bar, the freshers were then told to order triple whiskey with no ice or mixer and by the time the team reached their final club “there were not very many rugby players left.”
A witness described how the Northumbria freshers were “on the floor in a big pile, rolling down towards [a club] that night. If any fresher fell out of the pile then the non-freshers would pick them up by their collars, scream in their faces and then throw them back into the pile.”
A week later an email was sent out to the freshers demanding they bring “lacy underwear, a 200 gram block of cheese, Tobasco sauce and a porn mag”.
“This is just what I’ve heard,” added the revolted student “but apparently there were some instances of second and third years being sick on freshers”.
He expressed his dismay at the activities they engaged in: “I’d heard about rugby initiations before and that they were quite bad but I just thought a lot of drinking.” He added he expected “nothing that would be threatening or anything like that.”
When asked what happened that shocked him he said: “Instead of being greeted it was almost Military. It wasn’t a welcoming environment […] although the emails before you go say don’t be scared of this [the night out], that wasn’t the case.”
Asked if the night out had put him off University sport he commented: “Yeah, I’m now going to just play for a local club. The way the second and third years conducted themselves I don’t want to be in a team with those people. They just didn’t seem like nice people,” he finished.
Head Coach of Northumbria Rugby Union, Andy Buist, told The Courier that: “We take a zero tolerance attitude towards any activity that could in any way be described as an ‘initiation.’ All Northumbria students involved in sport are made aware of this policy and the consequences of acting in disregards to this.
The safety and welfare of all students is and always will be Northumbria University’s top priority.’ When a Northumbria student was asked to sum up what he felt about the night out he said: ‘I’m just disappointed to be honest… it’s just a shame.
Northumbria boast one of the top sporting set-ups in the country, including their new £30million state-of-the-art Sport Central, that has attracted professional sports teams such as the Newcastle Eagles and a lot of attention as a potential training facility in the lead up to next summer’s Olympic Games.
Athletic Union Officer at Newcastle University, Alice Holloway, stated: ‘The AU believes that our students should be able to enjoy playing sport free from intimidation and that’s why initiations are banned at Newcastle. Whilst we do have specific performance sports, a large proportion of the AU clubs are open to all abilities and no one should ever feel they are being pressured into doing things they don’t want to, or that they are not welcome socially.”
Initiations are an aspect of university life that has been suspect to extensive media coverage in recent years.
The excessive drinking and the extensive activities that accompany them has led to increasing number of accidents and even casualties.
In 2003 a student at Staffordshire University choked to death on his own vomit as a result of a game requiring to pick out a deflated ballon with his teeth from a trough of chilli, dog food and pig offal.
In 2005 a student at Hull University suffocated to death as he slept at the bottom of his stairs after consuming aprroximately 12 pints and six shots.
More recently, in June 2011, the University of Gloucestershire came under intense media scrutiny after it was revelaed some initations required participants to perform ‘sex acts’ on a public bus.
This specific incident led to six of the players facing criminal charges and the disbanding of the rugby and football clubs.
Both male and female students across the country have described the stomach churing activities involved in initiations, as ‘frightening’ and ‘degrading’.
A student at Gloucestershire University, an institution that has previously been the centre of such investigations, described their ordeal involving ‘a lot of vomiting, we were taken upstairs to a car park and pelted with flour, washing-up liquid and eggs’.
They are even common in professional sport, with England winger Chris Ashton revealing in March of this year that he had to have 21 different alcoholic drinks to be ‘initiated’ into the England squad.
However, there are individuals who believe that initiations should be left alone. Chris Baker, a graduate from University of Wales Institute in Cardiff (UWIC) said: ‘Initiations shouldn’t be banned because they help build team spirit and espeically help to generate a better relationship between freshers and other members of the club.’