University footballers are sometimes seen as lacking commitment. By introducing a lengthy fines system however, the University of Westminster Dragons are looking to change that.
Club captain Jack Scott told Voice of London Sport: “we just thought if we introduced a fines system it would make players let us know what they’re up to,” going on to explain, “if they can’t tell us in enough time, they get fined – simple.
“My friend used to play semi professional football, obviously they’re getting paid so they’re getting heftier fines for more trivial things like not wearing certain types of shoes to training. When he told me about it I thought it might make the club run a little bit more smoothly.”
So what exactly warrants a fine in this new system? A booking sees a player receive an extra £5 on top of the existing fine that the league sets. Arriving late for a match could see a player fined up to £5 and a “negative remark about a teammate” could see a £2 fine. At the start of the season, on top of the initial £60 annual club membership fee, players are asked to pay an extra £20 towards fines, that they will receive back at the end of year if they haven’t broken the rules.
Not everyone is as happy with the new scheme however.
Dragons 2nd XI goalkeeper Lee Pearson told us: “obviously you’re getting fined for yellows by the league so it’s £10 but then they’ve added an extra fiver which was not necessary.
“So if it was a silly foul that you shouldn’t have done, you’re getting fined, but then also for events and stuff like that which is a bit annoying.”
University sports teams are notorious for outrageous drinking and regular socials. Rugby in particular holds the worst reputation, but there is a fear that including a £2 fine for missing a social event could bring that culture into football.
On this, Pearson said: “obviously there’s a football culture, isn’t there? A team culture where you’ve got to be one of the lads.” He then admitted: “if I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to go out, but at the same time you do feel a little bit under pressure to go out and drink because it’s supposed to be in that culture.”
However for Scott, socials are about something different: “a lot of the boys in our team are also musicians and hold concerts, if they ask us to come and we don’t, and we don’t give enough notice, a fine is given out- it’s more of a togetherness thing, we’re a team, we should be doing things together.”
This kind of system has always been a staple of the professional game, as UCL thirds captain James Sherrin recalled, after he was informed of Westminster’s new system.
“We used to train and play at Watford’s training ground, Shenley, so we would see that sort of stuff in the Watford changing rooms, which were the ones the under 18s, 19s and 17s would use. They had things on the walls they’d be charged for.
“They were very similar, they were professional players being paid about £500 a week and they’d be fined twenty quid for not bringing flip flops for the shower.”
Sherrin revealed that he was surprised that a university team had decided to take that approach: “It’s almost like the manager’s got way ahead of himself and needs to understand that this is uni football, it isn’t as competitive or serious as that, it’s supposed to be fun.”
Sherrin wasn’t particularly impressed with the financial aspect: “that’s £80 club fee; considering we pay £30 club fees for our season, I think that’s quite expensive.
“I’ve been playing for years and I’m captain but definitely in first year it would make you a lot more hesitant to join, 100%.”
When Voice of London Sport asked Sherrin if he could see his own team ever employing a similar scheme, his response was emphatic: “They seem excessive. We certainly as a club don’t have that sort of an issue with discipline. It sounds very autocratic to be like that. I don’t think we’d ever need to.”
But, with rumours of infighting amongst the Dragons last season, can it be criticised if it is working? Turnout to training sessions has never been better, and Jack Scott believes this can lead to increased success:
“In the past couple of years we were just turning up and seeing how many people turned up on the day, sometimes you can’t run a full session when you haven’t got say, four of your five strikers and midfielders so yeah that was the kind of idea about it.
“It’s working because people obviously don’t want to be handing over money unnecessarily so they’re trying to make more of an effort to get to the games and matches which is helpful for us.”
What do you think about Westminster’s new fines system? Would you be happy with that if you were a university sportsman or woman? Let us know in the comments section below.
Words: Étienne Fermie | Subbing: Reuben Pinder