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KCL Men’s Football “Pull Out” of Varsity in Protest of KCLSU, But Union State They Were “Removed”

Staff writer Sam Lord investigates why the men’s football team (KCLMFC) pulled out of their Varsity fixture this year.

One of the most anticipated events of Varsity, the KCL Men’s football match, will not take place this year. The club say that they took the decision to not participate the game in protest at funding and conditions, while the King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) instead state that the team were removed from Varsity for not fulfilling the necessary criteria to participate.

The KCLMFC claim that this decision is an act of protest against the Union, who were requiring extensive crowd restrictions – including the prohibition of alcohol and kick-off before midday – for the game to go ahead. The club also state that their choice to pull out was also fuelled by what the players consider to be ‘general poor treatment’ of the club by the Union.

The relationship between KCLMFC and the Students’ Union began to deteriorate following the 2023 Varsity fixture in which, according to one attendee, there were “unsavoury scenes in the crowd”.

The club allege that poor management by KCL and UCL Students’ Union-hired security allowed more than the allocated number of fans into the venue. Combined with an already tense atmosphere – common during Varsity – and a tight game that ended in penalties, there were “a few altercations between fans and security guards” and “really drunk” attendees, according to one spectator.

Since then, relations between the club and the SU have worsened. The club told Roar that they received no funding at all from the Union last September, despite receiving £2,000 the year before. As a result, one of Kings’ largest sports societies alleges that it has been entirely self-funded during this academic year, with kit orders, coach costs and other associated expenses being covered by membership costs alone.

Communication with the Union has also deteriorated. According to one anonymous player, “they often provide quite late notice” regarding administrative matters, including accusing the KCLSU of “suddenly cutting all coach transportation funding” only a week before the start of the season.

All Union-ratified sports teams did receive an email in August 2023 which stated that “KCLSU will be able to offer less financial support than in previous years”. It went on to say that the Union would now offer no funding for travel costs incurred within the M25 motorway around London for non-British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) fixtures.

In response to a Roar request for comment, a KCLSU spokesperson said:

“The London Varsity Series is one of the most celebrated events of the year at KCLSU, and to ensure its roaring success, the Union ensures a positive relationship with all sports societies at King’s throughout the year is maintained.

Following last year’s incident of altercations with fans, the KCL Men’s Football Club’s misconduct and the inability to provide a safe atmosphere for the fixture resulted in their removal from the Varsity Series altogether. KCLSU requires clubs to meet eligibility checks for their respective fixtures to ensure safety for spectators and players, as well as to promote fair play and sportsmanship. The eligibility requirements this year have remained unchanged and were adhered to by other sports clubs demonstrating the requirements are reasonable and can be met.

Furthermore, the club’s alleged statement on the poor management of security at the venue by KCL and UCL Students’ Union is incorrect as it was the club’s responsibility to hire appropriate security at their respective event last year. With due diligence not being followed by the team, the event saw many spectators allowed entry to the venue that went beyond the venue’s capacity resulting in a breach of safety.

The club has also made a claim of being self-funded for the current academic year, however, all sports clubs at King’s receive a minimum amount of funding based on their competitions. To reiterate, KCLSU covers all expenses of BUCS competing clubs for one training session per week, home fixtures, as well as transport outside of M25. The union also covers 50% of the home fixtures for LUSL competing clubs. KCLSU has always set realistic expectations in terms of funding with a minimum cap being provided to all clubs, and further amounts above the minimum cap depend upon the yearly budget of the union.

We support and encourage the participation of all sports clubs at King’s in the London Varsity Series. Despite the misconduct of the club last year, KCLSU is consistently working on rebuilding its relationship with the team by meeting them more frequently with the Vice President, Activities and Development. We have ensured that we hear their concerns and set realistic expectations that

support them in planning for the year ahead.

KCLSU will continue supporting its sports club, keeping skill and competitive spirit alive whilst ensuring a safe environment for its audience. We hope to see King’s Men’s Football Club at Varsity next year.”

KCLSU spokesperson

In an official statement to Roar, the KCLMFC said:

“We do not wish to start a conflict with the KCLSU, we just felt that it wasn’t the right move to compete in Varsity this year.

When speaking with the Varsity coordinators, we took the matter of last year’s Varsity very seriously. Alongside our friends at UCL, we suggested several concrete ways in which we could make the game safer. Our suggestions included offering to find a safer venue, employ more staff, and separate the fans. Instead, the unions insisted that we take a smaller venue and start far earlier, which we felt would lead only to people drinking earlier and for a longer period. We also felt that it was not financially viable for us.

In addition to that, we have been frustrated by our relationship with the KCLSU. We have had our funding cut completely on top of a long series of other difficulties we have experienced with our coordination with the student union. Other sports societies have had a similar experience. We hope that conditions will improve next year so that football can once again take part, but this year it did not feel right to compete in Varsity.”

KCLMFC spokesperson

One KCLMFC player stated that the Union had not taken on board their issues when they had been raised. He told Roar that the KCLSU “get defensive and then would rather be hostile to the society for daring to complain rather than taking the complaint on board. From the club’s perspective, we will always try our best to make the relationship as effective as possible, but this hasn’t seemingly been reciprocated.”

“It would just ruin the whole event and take all the fun out of it. This is why we have pulled out from playing”, said the player. One teammate stated that the confrontation had “been a long time coming”.


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