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This Girl Can’t

Like the unwanted youngest sibling, canoe polo does not get enough love here. But as Pyranha and their sister brand Revenge ( have recently supported a protest against rule changes to the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS)  canoe polo championships, I’m going to spread the love.

As you may know, BUCS have dictated that BUCS canoe polo, the highlight of the student season, will not have an open league this year. It will instead have a men’s league, and a ladies league, and ne’er the twain shall meet. This was announced in October without consultation or explanation. A short explanation was eventually published, and a couple of days ago BUCS announced a weird hybrid open league open to mixed teams from universities who do not enter a ladies’ team.

I think it will be obvious to anyone with any awareness of polo that this decision was made by people who lack exactly that. University of London Canoe Polo have written two excellent open letters to BUCS explaining all the damage these changes will do. You can see them here and here. More clubs have signed these open letters than are regularly able to attend BUCS polo, and British Canoe Polo has recently confirmed its opposition to the rule change. Boycott of BUCS polo is now firmly on the cards. I won’t repeat any of what’s been said about why the rule change is bad, but I want to try to explain why we feel forced to boycott because of it.

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Thanks to UoL Canoe Polo for this image

I love BUCS polo. Not because I stand even the most furiously optimistic hope of impressing on the field, or because I fancy dress to impress. (My duo polo game is pretty strong though.) It’s unreasonably cold, – but let God bring shame upon your house should you dare put on a cag – my tent sucks, and everybody there seems to be much better at polo than me.  But it’s BUCS. Somehow, the cold, the losing endlessly, losing everybody at the party, is worth it.    

And so we work hard for it – I write this with extremities still frosty from a “nice for the time of year” training session in the Bristol docks. Logistical problems have to be solved, the SU begged for money, teams put together, hype publicised… But it’s BUCS. It’s worth it.

So when the rules are suddenly changed without any appreciation of the controversy this would cause, I’m upset. When these rules exclude my friends from playing the best polo, and me from playing the best opponents, I’m upset. When BUCS respond to sustained protest with the slenderest of replies, I’m upset. When BUCS use Student Unions to tell canoe clubs to shut up and remove their protest material, I’m upset. When they claim to improve participation by making it much harder for women to play polo, I’m upset. When they claim to be motivated by student feedback, but push through changes which everyone hates, I’m upset.

I love BUCS polo, but BUCS does not love me. Student polo players across the country put in so much to be able to do their best at the tournament. But when they complain about rules preventing them from doing that, they’ve been told to shut up and take what they get. I don’t want to compete in any competition run like this. And this is why University of Bristol, along with many other canoe clubs, might not be going to BUCS this year. For once, it’s not worth it.

If you also oppose changes to BUCS polo’s open league, please use social media to show your support, using the hashtags #takeastand and #thisgirlcant.