Imperial’s Women’s rugby teams have been left fuming after their Varsity match on Wednesday due to transport mix-ups and alleged verbal abuse from a Sport Imperial staff member.
Coaches leaving the stadium earlier than planned resulted in the stands emptying during the women’s headlining game and also led to some girls being left stranded at the stadium afterwards.
Further insult to injury came when those left behind consulted a Sport Imperial staff member, but then overheard them saying “I don’t care how those fat girls get home”.
The women played their headline game to an emptying stadium after a transport mix up meant coaches began to leave The Stoop, based in Twickenham, from the beginning of the second half of their match.
This happened despite the teams being reassured by Sport Imperial that transport would not be departing until their game had finished.
By the end of the game, all the stands were completely empty, as students had rushed to get a seat on the coaches going back to South Kensington, a journey that can take over an hour to make via public transport.
After playing the game, some of the girls were directed onto the last remaining coach waiting outside. However, since the coach was also nearly full of straggling spectators who had been waiting for forty minutes, a handful of girls had to stay behind and wait for a minibus, which also failed to appear.
The girls have told Felix they then addressed a Sport Imperial staff member about the missing minibus, to which they received a less then savoury response. He allegedly told the girls he was fed up with dealing with drunken students, and didn’t have time to resolve their transport issues.
After the girls confronted him over his bad attitude, he proceeded to storm off and leave them alone outside of the Stoop, telling them as he left to make their own way home.
The girls then told Felix that a security guard approached them after, asking if they were ok and if they knew how to get home. The security guard then radioed allegedly the same member of staff, to which he was heard to respond over the walkie-talkie: “I don’t care how those fat girls get home”.
The girls were eventually taken back to South Kensington by another Sports Imperial staff member later in the evening.
Transport to the Stoop earlier in the day was also poorly organised: one double decker coach travelling from the South Kensington campus only had eight people inside, despite the women’s rugby girls having to make their own way there.
The girls turned up at Hammersmith Apollo at 5pm to meet a coach that also didn’t show up, despite multiple reassurances from Sport Imperial staff that a coach would meet them there and that they had also paid for it.
The girls therefore ordered taxis to take them to the Stoop, based in South West London, and only arrived shortly before the men’s game began. Several students called the organisation of transportation a “shambles”.
Up to four coaches left the Stoop early and completely empty once they dropped students off, due to damage to their interior sustained during the journey there.
There was therefore a shortage of coaches available to take students back to central London, which led to people panicking over how they were getting home and prematurely queuing outside the stadium in a bid to leave as soon as possible –during the women’s game.
The women’s rugby match, touted as the “headline act” of Varsity 2015 by Neil Mosley, head of Sport Imperial, lasted forty minutes in total.
It was followed by a lacklustre awards ceremony, where IC was crowned overall winners of Varsity, although only staff from College, the rugby teams and a handful of students who had stayed behind were present.
Sport Imperial also promised the women’s rugby team would be provided with dinner and drinks after the match along with the men’s rugby team.
However, by the end of the women’s match the men had already been fed, been asked to leave the dining facilities and had left the Stoop. When the girls arrived most of the food had already been eaten and the remaining food was cold.
Mona Theodoraki, the Captain of the Women Rubgy Club told Felix: “It’s unfortunate the way that things turned out. We played an amazing match and both teams worked so hard and it’s a shame that not many people got to see it.
“Hopefully we will be given this opportunity again in the future to show everyone what we can do”.
Theodoraki has since issued an email to Sport Imperial detailing all of these events, and requesting a public apology, which they are yet to deliver.
In it she stated: “Yesterday highlighted the sexism that is unfortunately very present at Imperial.
“As female rugby players, we have to fight to rebrand rugby as not just a ‘man’s game’, and this poor treatment has set us back massively. With the stands being emptied at halftime, the message that got sent across was that women are not as important as men”.
The email has also been sent to Alice Gast, the President of Imperial College and Debra Humphris, the Vice Provost (Education) and a fan of the club as a whole; in the Varsity programme she wrote an introduction to the team, stating that “I am particularly pleased that the leading rugby event this year will feature the women of the College, recognising just how far the women’s game in the UK has progressed”.
Neil Mosley has since offered to meet up to discuss the allegations in person with the team.
A spokesperson from Sport Imperial explained that the unplanned departure of the coaches was outside their control: “All the coaches were booked to leave the Stoop at 9:45pm, after the end of the headline game.
“Following the build-up of a crowd around the exit to the stadium during the final match it appears that Stadium staff decided to announce that coaches were leaving in an effort to disperse the crowd.
“This was done without consultation with any College staff and will be investigated”.
They concluded: “Any rude or aggressive behaviour towards athletes, students or guests is completely unacceptable.
“Any complaints will be taken seriously and investigated in line with College procedures. If any allegation relates to a member of Stadium staff we will ensure the matter is raised with senior managers there”.
They added that they will be offering a refund to students who missed out on transport because one of the coaches missed a scheduled stop, and will be looking into why the women’s coaches never materialised.
Sport Imerial head Neil Mosley told Felix: “The women’s rugby teams capped 2015’s Varsity with a great game, a high-note to end on in line with the quality of competition across this year’s sports.
“The evening was built around women’s rugby as the centrepiece event, with everything timed to encourage people to see the end of the game and the presentations.
“We’re deeply disappointed that the early coach departures meant this wasn’t the case. We’re liaising with the coach company and stadium staff to establish exactly what happened.
“Everyone involved in sport at Imperial knows that players and supporters deserve better than this and we’re sorry that the problems people encountered meant that the occasion didn’t live up to the quality of sport on the field”.
The editorial on this can be read here.