By George Simms
Spectators have been banned from all Van Mildert College football games whilst a University investigation takes place into crowd conduct at the men’s football Floodlit Cup semi-final against Collingwood. The move comes after a spectator ban was given to Hatfield and Castle College men’s rugby spectators just a month ago for “unacceptable behaviour”.
An email sent to all Mildert students by College Principal Tom Mole reported that “Van Mildert supporters repeatedly shouted ‘paedophile’, and sung chants referring to sexual abuse.” There have also been reports of drinks cans being thrown onto the pitch during the game.
The email explained that “A University investigation will now begin into this incident, led by me with support from specialist investigators at the Student Conduct Office. We will gather statements, interview witnesses, and make recommendations. The investigation will be greatly expedited if witnesses come forward, and if culprits take responsibility for their actions.” The email also called the behaviour “despicable” and called for all Mildert students to “join me in condemning it unreservedly.”
The University is set to put in place “additional monitoring and checks on unacceptable behaviour of spectators” for all College sports matches this term. These checks will focus on language used and excessive alcohol consumption.
The incidents were initially reported by the referee for the tie to the local FA, who have begun their own disciplinary process. This is likely to result in a fine for Van Mildert Association Football Club (VMAFC), and the email to Mildert students suggested that “our college has been brought into disrepute with the sport’s governing body.”
VMAFC’s President, Robert Duffin, told Palatinate, “Van Mildert Association Football Club is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment at our matches for both players and spectators. The club unreservedly condemns the behaviour reported by the referee at the floodlit cup match on 23rd February 2022. We are fully cooperating with the FA and the Durham University investigation. We will also be sending a written apology to the referee.”
A fan told Palatinate that similar chants regarding sexual abuse and paedophilia saw the other men’s football Floodlit semi-final, between Trevelyan and John Snow, stopped on multiple occasions. The John Snow captain reportedly told the spectators to “stop it with anything sexual”. The same referee was officiating at both games.
The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Colleges, Jeremy Cook, asked all College Principals to send an email to students to “remind them of the kind of behaviour expected from spectators at college sports matches”.
The specific content of these emails varied between colleges. St Chad’s College mentioned reports of incidents of poor behaviour in college bars, although Chad’s are not implicated in these reports. The email to St John’s students was brief, solely outlining the University policy for alcohol at sporting events.
A University spokesperson told Palatinate, “We believe everyone has the right to work, study and enjoy their leisure time in an environment that is respectful. We will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour like this within our University community and we will continue to take swift and decisive action where behaviour falls below the standard we would expect.”
Palatinate has contacted County Durham FA for comment.
Image: Van Mildert College