You can look at pretty much every student website and 'lad culture' will be mentioned in various contexts. What I wanted to question is, are university rugby teams perhaps deemed the main perpetrators of it?
In order to unravel this somewhat, I interviewed three of Plymouth University's own rugby players ranging in involvement, ability and rugby background to get a greater sense of what 'lad culture' is to them and how they feel university rugby fits into the stigma.
I was preparing for some kind of exposé on rugby lad culture and to basically name and shame. However, upon doing my research on Plymouth's own sportsmen my initial and somewhat preconceived idea has dramatically changed.
At Plymouth, there is a variety of students from different social and educational backgrounds, and this is not unlike that found on the rugby teams. One player explained that there was a "common misconception about rugby players and lad culture and particularly a gap in-between people that went to Private School and those that played club rugby instead." At other 'better' universities where you do get a higher intake of private school students, you do therefore meet a sense of privilege.
"Exeter is one of the worst, and that's not just because they are our local rivals. They are known on and off the field for being massively arrogant and rude... I can remember talking to two Exeter rugby boys on the train...and as soon as I said I played for Plymouth, they turned their noses up. I think the sense of self-entitlement people have, that arrogance, makes them think they can pull any girl they want, which I definitely think stems from coming from a Private School."
NUS define 'lad culture' to be dominated by social affairs within University, but arguably this is not the case for UPRFC. I asked them to define 'lad culture' themselves and the preconceived notions of "explicit behaviour, rudeness, crassness..." is something that UPRFC do not condone whereas "the actual amount of times we actually do that is so watered down to what people actually think..." This highlights that it is just the public perception of rugby culture and the regularity is somewhat different.
When asked who they thought were the worst club on campus for misogynistic, sexist and 'banterous' behaviour, it was clear that there were aware that; "Everyone thinks rugby players are the worst due to perceived naughty antics on nights out." However, quite rightly, students don't partake in rugby at university level to get involved in 'naughty antics' but because they love the sport;
"I've played rugby all my life and I really enjoy it so I wouldn't stop playing it because of the culture, I just wouldn't get involved in the culture. I'm not one of the big party ones, I would rather go out for a big rugby event rather than every Wednesday night because that does get repetitive and that is why boys do stupid things because they have nothing else to entertain them."
Yes, there is a preconceived message however, UPRFC said they, "...Aren't all perfectly behaved but any stretch of the imagination and we certainly not all gentlemen...there are some idiots in our club..."
But on the whole, they feel that playing rugby has taught them to be a "sort of upstanding person." When they do go on a night out as a club, they don their tweed blazers and yellow ties, giving a sense of unity amongst them, however this often splits up fights within other boisterous individuals as others do not want to fight off a burly team.
There are a few, who fit the stereotype of being a rowdy, brash and sexist sportsman, tainting the entire cohort. I was shocked to find out that 10/22 of the first team and bench have girlfriends, "so it's not like we are all single players that go out all of the time and shag because we don't."
The tradition that you find within initiation and their tie-social, isn't peer pressure, but a passing down to the fresher's, the current members had to do it, and therefore the new ones have to as well. "There is certainly no violence or forcing people to do things, it's more 'do this, because we had do this'. It's more tradition, not 'do it or else' or 'do it or you won't get the tie or be part of the club'."
I'm not trying to remove all the negative connotations to do with rugby and 'lad culture' in general but to see that UPRFC don't fit into the stereotype. They aren't all perfect. They do get a little raucous and maybe have one to many snakebites... but don't we all? It's just because of their distinctive tweed and yellow ties that make UPRFC stand out from the crowd. I certainly have seen worse behaviour from other university sports teams, and especially from other rugby teams.
"We are tame compared to them!"
Originally published by The Knowledge