Calder House, home of the HawksLouis Ashworth

Cambridge’s two elite sports clubs, the Hawks and the Ospreys, are currently consulting on a proposal which would allow them to share usage of the Hawks’ expansive clubhouse.

Student members of the Hawks – an all-male society comprised primarily of Blues sportsmen – showed overwhelming support in an advisory vote for a series of reforms which would allow members of the Ospreys to have equal rights to use Calder House for events and socials.

The Hawks’ termly alumni magazine said the changes would “cement the relationship between the two clubs and send an unequivocal message that they were presenting a united leadership on elite sport within the University.”

The clubhouse, which is located at Portugal Place near the Maypole pub, is a four-floor building containing a members’ room, bar, dining room and committee room. Opened in 1993, access is limited normally to Hawks members – usually students who have received a Blue, half-Blue or colours by playing sport at a University level – and members of the Dining Rights Club, which is open to local professional or business people of any gender. Both groups can bring guests into the clubhouse.

The proposal is currently undergoing a process of internal review, with Hawks alumni being consulted on the changes outlined. If passed, the changes could provide a permanent home for the Ospreys, a society which is open to all sportswomen who are judged to have competed at a sufficient level.

In a joint statement, the current presidents of the Hawks and Ospreys told Varsity: “The Hawks’ and Ospreys’ Clubs have worked in close partnership from the beginning on the clubhouse sharing proposal. There have been resident member votes from both clubs supporting this proposed arrangement. We are currently reviewing the consultation process with non-resident members and will publicise its findings alongside documents that we have already placed in the public domain so as to maximise transparency. Whatever the final decision, both clubs are committed to continuing to work closely to ensure the outcome is both sustainable and positive for Cambridge sport.”

The Hawks’ Club was founded in 1872 as a society for the University’s elite athletes. Its members have included actor Hugh Laurie, former England cricket captain Mike Atherton, and King George VI. The Ospreys were founded in 1985 as a social club for sportswomen. Both societies have their own admissions processes, and Blues athletes do not automatically become members.

The Ospreys have lead a nomadic existence since their foundation: though they have had their own clubhouses at points, they have been unable to sustain residence in any location. Despite the access restrictions, it is already common for the Ospreys to use Calder House’s facilities for social occasions.

The proposed change was first announced in the Hawks’ own publication, The Hawk, in Easter 2017. The article concerning the plans begins by saying that the resident members of the Hawks and Ospreys had voted overwhelmingly “to give the Ospreys occupation in the Clubhouse”, and that the views of the alumni were now being sought out.

The piece argues that sponsors are increasingly unwilling to be associated with a single-sex members’ club, and that there is an increasing will from both parties to present a united front to the university. It also notes that the Ospreys have been “severely hampered” by the lack of a fixed base of operations, and that the two clubs have already been cooperating in the production of a charitable ball to be held this term.

A more formal proposal for the plans, first published in June 2017, recommends that the Ospreys will be entitled to make use of Calder House, though it stresses that the two clubs would remain independent. Members of both the Ospreys and the Hawks would be expected to pay the same amount in contribution to the upkeep of the clubhouse, which currently stands at £80 a year.

In addition, the president and vice-president of the Ospreys would be invited to join the joint management committee, the body responsible for the upkeep of the clubhouse, alongside the president and secretary of the Hawks. A joint resident committee would also be formed, made up of three Ospreys members and three Hawks members, to discuss clubhouse matters and the scheduling of events.


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The proposal also suggests that resident Hawks members and Ospreys members would have equal rights when it comes to booking the lounge, restaurant, and members’ room. In an advisory vote held in June this year, 85% of the 167 Hawks currently resident in Cambridge backed the changes.

However, the plans also make clear that both clubs will be expected to uphold their own membership criteria, and that Hawks’ alumni contributions and donations will go directly to the Hawks’ club rather than to the clubhouse. Similarly, Ospreys’ alumnae subs will continue to go to the Ospreys.

The name above the front door of the building will remain as “Hawks’ Club”, though on either side of the door will be two plaques reading “Hawks’ Club” and “Ospreys’ Club”.

Complexity was added by the clubhouse’s ownership structure: it is controlled by The Hawks Company Ltd. There are three trustees: Douglas Calder, Anthony Hyde, and Okeoghene (Oke) Odudu, all of whom are Hawks' alumni. Calder, after whom the clubhouse is named, raised concerns about the practical implementation of the proposal for joint usage.

In reply, the Hawks’ management and development committees stressed that the proposal came entirely at the suggestion of the resident committee, and that no “undue influence” from another party was exerted. The proposal would involve no change, addition, or deletion of any of the Hawks' existing club rules. 

It also sought to clarify that the joint committee, to which members of the Ospreys would be invited, has existed since 1993 and is responsible for the running of the clubhouse, remaining wholly distinct from both clubs' management. 

The letter also notes that the Dining Rights Club, whose membership is mixed, has made use of Calder House since 1993.

In a reply to a second of Calder’s letters released by the Hawks, the two clubs' independence was reasserted. It states that "the Hawks' were to retain their independence, their men-only status, their existing rules, and their existing election procedures."

It was argued that the move would offer increased financial stability for the club through subscriptions and event income. The management committee said the club is currently “overly dependent” on the income from ‘Rumboogie’, a sports night run by the Hawks every Wednesday at Cindies [Ballare] nightclub, which bills itself as “the biggest Cambridge University student night.”

Following communication with Calder, the Hawks carried out a consultation inviting opinions from its alumni, and are currently reviewing the responses they have received. A decision is expected to be made before the end of term

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