After its first term as an official college sport, college rugby is coming under review.
Charlotte Winter, York Sport President, has confirmed that the sport is being reviewed in order to address serious issues that have arisen over the course of this term.
With many colleges struggling to put out full squads on a regular basis, it has been recognised that there needs to be greater publicity for college rugby, as well as resolving problems relating to the provision of pitch-side medical treatment.
Winter told Nouse, “College rugby is currently under review, and is being dealt with by the College Sport Officers and the staff they have with them. I have said there needs to be a review; firstly because rugby is a part of our Sport England bid, and secondly because we need to make sure all of the health and safety is okay.”
“Initially there were some issues because a member of staff said they were dealing with it, and the College Sport Officers said they were – there was some confusion. They’ve hopefully got it sorted now.”
With rugby chosen as one of the focus sports this year, receiving extra funding and coaching, the low participation from many colleges has become a serious concern for York Sport, as well as the competing teams.
Winter added, “We’re looking at new ways of publicising it within the colleges, particularly in Langwith and Goodricke because they have had to merge teams as it is, and we really need them separate because we can’t have a college sport work that way.”
“It’s not fair on the colleges who can put out a squad, or indeed those that can’t. We need to work out ways of making it better. The new College Sport Reps can hopefully push a bit more once they come in for January.”
“We need to advertise and run it more efficiently, get numbers up for certain colleges, get numbers up for referees and make sure all the health and safety aspects are covered.”
“I think we might need one more pitch on 22 Acres, because one just isn’t enough, and that is something that is being looked at by myself and the University.”
“Rugby is one of the target sports this year, and while the others are running incredibly well, rugby is one that we’re having some issues with in terms of numbers.”
Prior to this term, college rugby was not an authorised college sport, and was instead organised by captains and played off-campus at York RI. However, students were often put off the idea of playing college rugby by the costs. Without YUSU funding, matches would cost £2-3 per player and taxis would also have to be paid for.
With no official organising body overseeing the sport, it was left to the players to organise their own medical provisions, which led to a number of players sustaining injuries that were left untreated.
One player, who has asked to remain anonymous, told Nouse, “Players would play through concussion and other serious injuries, in fact one guy had concussion five times in a row. It was a massive problem.”
While teams were promised that medical staff would be present at all matches now that rugby is played on 22 Acres, the care provisions have remained inconsistent.
In addition, some teams have expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that matches were organised starting in Week Two, meaning that smaller colleges had little time to integrate freshers into the team and teach them how to play safely.
“Freshers new to rugby can’t just start playing a full-contact match after one or two training sessions, there are serious health and safety implications there,” one player has said.
“They need to be taught the basic skills in a safe environment, and throwing them into a game straight away is not the right way to go about that.”
Added to this, some players have expressed their dissatisfaction at the lack of changing facilities available.
Another player stated, “I don’t understand why the pavilion is always locked, it’s only a small thing, but if we could use the changing facilities there it would make life a lot easier. Right now we have the choice of getting changed on the side of the pitch, or in our accommodation, which, for those who live off campus, isn’t exactly great.”
Players from Derwent, among other larger rugby colleges, have expressed their dissatisfaction at having to “loan” players on a weekly basis to depleted opposition, as playing against sides that cannot gel takes away the competitive element of the fixture.