John’s second year and sportswoman, Buzz Watts, told Varsity: “it does not reflect well on the reputation of John’s to be a boys club.”Louis Ashworth for Varsity

St John’s College’s elite men’s sports society, the Eagles, has voted not to merge with the women’s club.

Seven out of the ten members present at the Eagles’ committee meeting in October voted against the proposed merger with the counterpart women’s club, the Flamingos, Varsity can reveal.

Jenny Dunstan, Flamingos President, told Varsity that it was “disappointing that so few of the men were in favour of the proposed merger” which she supported for the sake of “equality and inclusion”.

Dunstan said it was “outdated” to have separate clubs for men and women as “logistically all of the societies’ events are held together”.

John’s second year and sportswoman, Buzz Watts, told Varsity: “it does not reflect well on the reputation of John’s to be a boys club.”

“At a College that is so proud of its sporting history, men’s and women’s sport should have the same prestige,” she said.

The Eagles President, Ben Foster, who proposed the motion to merge the two clubs, told Varsity he was “disappointed that the motion did not pass”.

Messages in the Flamingo’s WhatsApp groups suggests that the men’s reluctance to let their female counterparts join was motivated by a “lack of respect for women’s sport”. Following these statements, Foster said that he believes “the Eagles do respect women’s sport”.

“Lack of this [respect] was not the reason why the merger did not pass,” he said.

According to Foster, “no mention of women’s sport came up during the committee meeting”.

Foster cited the clubs’ different criteria for membership as one of the reasons why some members of the Eagles opposed the merger.

Five members of the Flamingos are captains of half-blue sports, which would make them ineligible for membership of the Eagles unless the club changed its rules.

Co-captains of college sports may also not qualify and would have to be considered on an individual basis.

Foster said that Eagles members “were particularly keen for there [to] be more of a club spirit and togetherness” and that “combining with the Flamingos at this given time would lead to further problems with club cohesion”.

However, Dunstan in contrast believes merging the clubs would “help with cohesion”.

Dunstan also suggested that having two separate clubs might pose problems for “non-gender conforming athletes”.

One member of the Flamingos, who asked to remain anonymous, told Varsity that the reason why a separate club for women exists is “exclusively because women weren’t allowed to join the Eagles when they were first admitted to the college”.


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“It would go a long way to be valued as sportswomen to be allowed to join,” she said.

Some elite sports societies at other Colleges are mixed-gender, such as Downing’s Griffin Club.

At Selwyn, the men’s and women’s clubs unanimously agreed to merge in 2020, forming the Hermes and Siren’s club.

A spokesperson for St John’s College said: “The Eagles and Flamingos Clubs are run by students to celebrate excellence in student sport. The clubs already organise social events together throughout the year.”

“The proposal to formally combine the clubs was agreed in principle by both Presidents, it was unanimously supported at a Committee meeting of the Flamingos, however at a subsequent meeting of the Eagles it was felt that the constitutional differences between the two clubs needed to be addressed before a merger took place,” they continued.