Varsity this year had all the elements to be an exciting and landmark event in the University calendar, incredible sunny weather, a fantastic cooling sea breeze and a day of engaging sport. This year’s varsity, however, has been marred by a state of extremely poor organisation by the organising committee and demonstrably misleading and disingenuous engagement about the event to the student body.
Over the past week students have been expressing their outrage and frustration over the decision by the varsity committee to prohibit external alcohol from the Sketty lane site, a prohibition that has not been the case in previous years. The outrage spread following the decision of organisers to not inform students about this prohibition until only a week before the event, long after most students had bought their tickets and had expectations for how the day would unfold.
The outrage students and the bile from social media sites, such as Yik Yak, was so severe that organisers including the students union made many statements about the event, insisting that organisers were prohibiting alcohol on the basis of licensing agreements and the change was done on the basis of police pressure and the goal of increasing student safety.
Students prior to varsity have been incredibly sceptical of the organisers abilities to deliver effective alcohol service to such a vast number of students, especially over the extremely lengthy queues for ticket collection and t shirt collection (Of which many were delivered the night before varsity). This concern reached boiling point the day prior,with organisers only providing 2 bars instead of the 4 they had initially promised on widely shared social media statements.
It can be confirmed that students concern and outrage has largely been justified, with many students reporting lengthy queues to enter the Sketty lane site, and many students waiting upwards of 40 minutes to an hour for a drink from the provided bars. Many students have also criticised the safety of said bars, with multiple reports of inappropriate conduct towards female students and the crushing of students waiting in said queues. One student had this to say on the organisation of the bars “Chronic understaffing and s**t beers for too much It may have started as a safety policy but it’s turned into money making. Another student had this to say on the issue of safety “I feel bad criticising because they are good guys but the bars are awful waited 35 minutes the only real health and safety is the crush at the bars felt more at risk than last year by far, honestly the bars are actually quite dangerous”.
The difficulty of attaining alcohol on site and the requirement for cash has led many students to abandon the varsity events in Sketty lane and to drink either at home or on campus. Some reports have stated the hospital have made complaints due to the presence of students carrying open alcohol onto hospital premises in search of ATMs.
Some students have missed out on the event entirely due to poor communication by the organisers that tickets would be required to visit the Sketty lane site at all. One student who missed out had this to say “I wanted to go and watch my boyfriend play one game, obviously couldn’t get in. I think it’s excluding staff and those who only want to go and see a few games. I know this isn’t 100% the SUs fault, but I do feel they have commercialised the event. It’s clearly one of the most talked about and loved days of the year, and I feel this year people haven’t gone to watch the sport as much because they are stuck waiting for drinks. I’m actually really gutted I missed out on the day events, as it was poorly communicated in advance (when the tickets came out) that you needed a ticket for Sketty lane”.
Controversy has also been raised over bus collection for the main varsity rugby game at the liberty stadium, with some students reporting lengthy and disorganised queues for getting on the coaches. One student had this to say on the situation “Its frustrating to queue early for the coach when you end up queuing for ages in Cardiff Vs Swansea drunken chaos and for the coach to leave late”
Poor organisation extended to the Liberty stadium event with students following the game reporting big crowds and difficulty leaving the stadium. One student had this to say “Chaos leaving the stadium, few people were having panic attacks. Crowds and way too many people packed tightly together trying to leave, I was stuck for 40minutes”.
While Varsity has by no means been an unmitigated disaster this year, the student union and other organisers do need to be held account for the unacceptable organisation and the badly handled information dissemination for the event. Hopefully the student’s union and other bodies involved will take the issues this year into account when planning future events.