The controversial ban imposed on Glasgow University Rugby Club (GURFC) looks set to end after plans to re-instate the team were announced by the University.
The exiled team was issued the punishment in December 2008 after a catalogue of inappropriate behaviour.
Since January 1 2009 the team, established 140 years ago, has been banned from using both the University’s name and its facilities in a move criticised heavily by the team.
A partnership consisting of the University itself, Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA) and the Sports and Recreation Services, decided on the re-introduction in an effort to bring rugby back into student life at Glasgow.
A statement released by the University and supported by GUSA reads: “This arrangement will allow the Rugby Club to be reintroduced to competitive competition over a number of years, and gives the players an opportunity to prove they can operate as a well functioning and inclusive club”
The plans include the creation of the post of Rugby Development Officer, in partnership with the Scottish Rugby Union. It is intended that the officer, a position which will be funded jointly by GUSA and the SRU, will help to develop and train both the men’s and women’s rugby teams.
The statement reads: “For the coming year, there will be intramural rugby played within the University. This will be followed by inter-university rugby from 2010, with the full reintroduction of national competitive rugby in 2011.”
Stephen Flavahan, GUSA President, explained the benefits of the policy. He said: “We are actually investing more in rugby to try and bring it back to a situation where we’ve got people playing competitive and recreational rugby. They can represent the University and people can be proud of the way they’re performing on and off the field.”
However, members of the banned rugby team have expressed some reservations as to the value of the new plans.
Under the new rules next year will see different faculties competing on the rugby pitch alongside the remnants of GURFC as a so-called ‘nomadic’ team. There will still be no affiliated Glasgow University team competing outwith the University.
Chris McLellan, captain of the first fifteens, spoke of his frustration at the length of time it would take to have a fully functioning GURFC team again.
He said: “I don't think they need a four year plan to turn rugby round at the University. I don't think it has to be that incremental a process. It could’ve been a far more natural process than the one they've put in place.”
Andrew Brown, GURFC Social Convenor, said: “The most infuriating thing about this is that it’s stuff that happened in the past and we are still getting punished for it now.”
In addition McLellan explained his concerns as to the damage the ban has done to perceptions of rugby at Glasgow.
He said: “One hundred and twenty freshers signed up to our taster session and only ten turned up because of what they’d heard about our situation.”
Despite this, the rugby team have admitted that behaviour in the past was unacceptable and they plan to cooperate with the new programme.
McLellan said: “The lesson was learnt last year — we can’t misbehave anymore because they’re not going to accept it now.”
“Whatever GUSA offers we’ll go along with, we are more than happy to. We are willing to bend over backwards.”
Stephen Flavahan made it clear the plan was not a punishment but a fresh start for GURFC.
He said: “We don’t want to take away the opportunity for people to play sport — it’s quite the opposite. Teams representing the University have to live up to the expectations and standards of carrying the University name.”
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