It has today been announced that all further Varsity fixtures, including the highly anticipated return of football as a standalone event, will be suspended, as the Varsity Board launches an investigation into the controversy surrounding the recent Varsity Rugby matches.
The Varsity Board, comprised of representatives from the University of Bristol, the University of the West of England and their respective students’ unions, will look into incidents of sexist chanting and violence that took place during the rugby fixtures. These events have not only harmed the likelihood of Varsity Rugby taking place at Ashton Gate next year, but may also put a halt to this year’s Varsity Football, which was also set to take place at the stadium.
UoB and UWE’s football clubs have expressed their ‘disappointment’ and ‘anger’ at the decision
The University of Bristol has issued a joint statement with Bristol SU outlining this decision: ‘Further to events that occurred at the Varsity Rugby matches on Thursday 30th March at Ashton Gate, the Varsity Board has launched an investigation with immediate effect. Footage is being reviewed to identify where offences have been committed and disciplinary measures will follow as appropriate. While the investigation is ongoing, all fixtures between the two Universities, including Varsity Football, have been suspended’.
Responding to the suspension, UoB and UWE’s football clubs have issued a joint statement, expressing their ‘disappointment’ and ‘anger’ at the decision, branding potential cancellation as a ‘knee-jerk reaction’.
Whilst acknowledging the need for the behaviour for those involved in incidents at the rugby to be condemned, and accepting the responsibility of individuals in the disturbances that occurred, the statement also notes on mistakes made by the organisers in terms of crowd management: ‘Had better protocol been in place to prevent any such disturbance, these incidents would have remained isolated (with only the culprits punished) or even better, eradicated completely’.
The football clubs keen to express solidarity with their rugby counterparts: ‘we would also like to stress that we in no way hold any members of the four rugby clubs involved responsible. Thursday’s fixtures were played in the spirit of sportsmanship and respect and it is a deep shame that certain spectators couldn’t follow the example of the players’.
They closed their statement emphasising the importance of the event to their members: ‘The footballing communities of both universities have worked extremely hard in recent years to re-establish football varsity as a stand-alone event […] Given the massive growth of women’s football in Bristol and the unprecedented success of both men’s clubs in BUCS competition this season, the event at Ashton Gate should have been a magnificent spectacle and a fitting series finale. It is to the detriment of the Bristol sporting community that it now may not go ahead’.
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