Podcast Editor Sam Pennifold on the establishment of the King’s College London Rugby Football Club’s new Ethics Board.

The world of rugby is changing. The sport is no longer merely played by the elite, and bit by bit, little by little, it is becoming more inclusive – almost half of the starting fifteen for the Rugby World Cup Final in 2019 were people of colour. These changes are vital, both at university and in the greater field of the sport.

The King’s College London Rugby Football Club (KCLRFC) is now taking steps towards inclusivity as well through the establishment of the club’s Ethics Board. This will act as a means to “deal with complaints”, preserve and promote diversity, and “address any issues that oppose the values of KCLRFC”. The Board’s primary objective is to “advise the committee on continuing KCLRFC’s legacy of tolerance and excellence on and off the pitch”.

The Board’s establishment comes in the wake of a wide-reaching investigation conducted by The Tab concerning sexual misconduct across all sports societies on campus, with numerous people bravely choosing to step forward and talk about their experiences. Ella* told The Tab: “I received unwanted sexual attention from three rugby dudes from King’s on a sports night. One of them forced me into a dry sex position that I didn’t ask for but you could tell he was drunk.” 

While these values have never been promoted during my time at the club – and when seen would be called out by many of its members – the testimony given by those students revealed a clear, present issue that needed addressing. Whilst one would hope such a board would never be needed, unfortunately, it is – this was true both before and after the Tab article. The creation of the Ethics Board serves as clear notice of a hardline stance, showing that the KCLRFC takes such matters seriously and is striving to establish further accountability and equality. Such a move is to be commended.

Newly-elected club President Tom Smaldon told Roar: “The board will act to preserve and promote diversity and tolerance as well as addressing any concerns that oppose our values as a club.

“All members will be approachable and easy to contact as we strive to create an open dialogue within our community. We are very proud to launch the KCLRFC ethics board ahead of the upcoming year and invite our fellow University societies to join us in this effort.”

This is a welcome move from the club; standing up to your friends can be one of the hardest things to do. To see it happen at the KCLRFC makes me proud of my club. I hope other societies will follow the lead of the KCLRFC. King’s Hockey and Football were also heavily mentioned in the Tab poll, and the issue was not limited to male sports teams. 

Sports have great potential to both bring people together, promoting both mental and physical health, and to be a force for good – though only when they are inclusive for all. KCL Rugby has always been this for me, and I hope this move means that, moving forward, it can be for everyone else as well.

Despite all that I’ve mentioned, this is a tentative “well done”. We all, myself included, can and must do more. This move by the KCLRFC is a start, but is a move that must stick.

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