There’s a bit of a dark cloud hanging over BUCS volleyball at the moment.

Yesterday the 2013-14 championship finals were contested, with both being hotly contested. It was Durham downing Northumbria on the women’s side and Sheffield Hallam beating Northumbria on the men’s. Both were upsets as neither Northumbria team had lost this year, nor did either lose last year. Moreover, both Durham and Sheffield had lost to their Northumbria counterparts three times already this season before yesterday. Both were worthy championship matches.

The problem that’s come up is lower down in the ranks, specifically in Division 2. At that level there is no overall championship as there is in Division 1. Instead there are conference cup knock-out competitions, which also saw their finals played on Wednesday. There has been controversy over at least two of them. It comes from questions of eligibility.

The BUCS rules on players playing for different teams in the same sport are as follows (from the Individual Eligibility section):

REG 7.5    Team Selection

REG 7.5    In team sports which incorporate competition below First Team level, each team should be selected as though the other teams would be playing in a match of equal importance at the same time.

REG 7.5.1 It would be expected that the first team would always be the strongest team available to represent that institution.

REG 7.5.2 Teams must be selected as if all teams are playing on a given day, for example, if the first team does not have a match but the second team do, no players who would normally represent the first team are eligible to play for the second team.

REG 7.5.3  Individuals may not play or be a substitute (playing or non-playing) for different teams on the same date, but may play for a different team in a different sport on the same day.

REG 7.5.4  Knock Out: Individuals may not play for different teams in the same round of cup competitions in the same sport even if those rounds take place on different dates i.e. may not play for the firsts in a semi-final and seconds in semi-final; but may play for a different team in a different sport on the same day. Selections for knock-out competitions must adhere to REG 7.5-7.5.3 Team Selection, any dubious selections will need to be justified and substantiated if appealed.

REG 7.5.5   Appeals regarding contravention of Reg 7.5-7.5.4 must be accompanied by substantiating evidence including the name(s) of any player(s) in question and photographic/video evidence as a minimum.

At Exeter we apparently have competed against at least two teams which failed to abide by these rules. In one case we were told about it by another university who observed someone playing against us at Final 8s who had played in a conference cup competition, meaning a player selected to their Division 1 team (firsts) had played on their Division 2 team (seconds) at the same level in the competition. In another case it was a team from our own conference we witnessed doing the same thing.

Our club leadership has been pondering how to handle this situation. On the one hand we don’t want to see our peers at other clubs face major sanctions which negatively influence our sport. Also, we don’t want to elevate ourselves – or be seen to be trying to do so – at someone else’s expense by tattling on them. On the other hand, though, we jumped through major hurdles in pulling together teams to play in the cup competitions specifically to avoid eligibility issues. We literally had to bring up players from our intermediates group (non-BUCS) to play and obviously that meant we didn’t do as well as we could have done. As a result, we haven’t accumulated as many BUCS points as we could have done, and other teams have collected more than they might have if they’d abided by the rules..

I’ve heard it suggested that in some cases players from the 1st team were used in alternate positions in the 2nd team cup matches. For example, an opposite played setter or a libero played outside hitter. Conceptually, I get the argument being made there, but I don’t see anything in the rules which provides an exception based on playing a different position.

It’s my understanding that one of the club captains is drafting a letter to BUCS expressing our concerns. Hopefully, something is done to address this issue, at least on a moving forward basis. If I’m honest, though, I don’t have particularly high hopes in that regard. BUCS doesn’t seem to give volleyball a particularly large amount of attention.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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