The power of Durham’s sports clubs

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In the wake of the #dontgetspiked fiasco, it became apparent that students were going to have to lead Durham’s fightback against spiking.

The Durham Night-In organised a club boycott for Tuesday 26th October. More than 1,400 students pledged to take part and, as I walked through the centre of town around midnight that evening, I was comforted to see the streets and club queues virtually empty.

Yet it must be said that Tuesday is perhaps not Durham’s busiest night out on a normal week. Some sports clubs don’t allow their players to go out on a Tuesday because they have important games every Wednesday.

However, almost every sports club in Durham runs regular nights-out on a Wednesday and it has become a fundamental tenet of university life. Wednesday is the famed (and sometimes infamous) Sports Night and sees thousands of students bedazzled and dressed up for their respective socials. This is what inspired the vast majority of Durham’s sports clubs to support the club boycott.

Clubs from DU Hockey and Weightlifting to Trevelyan College Boat Club released statements stating that they would be boycotting nightclubs on Sports Night. All in all, sports clubs with more than 2,000 combined members boycotted Durham’s nightclubs. Alongside this, many sports clubs also called for a week-long boycott.

Men’s Rugby, Basketball, Tennis, Women’s Cricket, and Polo, among others, emphasised that a weeklong boycott was the only action that would make clubs act to change their security policies and take proportional action.

Sports inspire an inimitable sense of community

Durham University Rugby Football Club (DURFC), one of the clubs to back the week-long boycott, told Palatinate, “Given that we as a club do not condone going out on a Tuesday due to playing games on a Wednesday, the Tuesday boycott was quite frankly not meaningful enough to reflect the severity of the problem it was raising awareness of.

“We felt that as the sporting community mostly (with notable exceptions from some clubs) boycotted nightclubs, it would impact the attendance of nights out, especially the Wednesday Sports Night, and would make clear [to the nightclubs] the seriousness with which we take this issue.”

Whilst Marcus Rashford has shown what sportsmen can do to affect social change, many professional sports clubs are still conspicuously silent on social and political issues. Sports clubs are a fundamental part of university life. You only have to look at the steaming mess at Yorkshire CCC currently to see how far some institutions still have to come. It’s refreshing to see this is not the case at university level.

Sports clubs are a fundamental part of university life in Durham. Very few people will leave Durham without having represented either their college or University at a sport. Sports clubs should continue to recognise the influence they wield within Durham and be proud of what they’ve achieved with the spiking boycott. Nightclubs have listened and Durham’s streets were much quieter at night throughout that week.

Sports clubs inspire an inimitable sense of community. These communities can create effective and cohesive vehicles for change, firmly built on trust, teamwork, and mutual respect. As Movember will now show, Durham’s sporting community can be wonderfully powerful when used in the right way. Professional clubs, especially Yorkshire CCC, would do well to recognise that.

Image: DURFC

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