United Kingdom

Student died after rugby initiation involving lager, Guinness, rum and food sauc

Sam Potter was found dead the morning after a university rugby club initiation

A young rugby player was found dead hours after taking part in a four-hour drinking session during a club initiation, an inquest heard.

Sam Potter, 19, drank so much in four hours that he was the equivalent of nearly five times the legal drink drive limit.

He was among a group of first and second year students who had drinks mixed for them by third and fourth year students as part of an end-of-season initiation in a garden shed in Gloucester.

By 6pm, witnesses said that he was ‘extremely intoxicated’ and he fell asleep leaning against a sofa in the house.

At 5.30am the following day, friends could not wake the film production student and he was declared dead by paramedics.

Detective Sergeant David McCoy said: ‘Everybody who was there, was there of their own free will and voluntarily and engaged in those games voluntarily and were able to stop if they wished to do so.

‘There was nothing based on the other students we spoke to that give us any cause for concern. It was a tragic accident.

‘I see the list of drinks being drunk, ranging from rum, Guinness, lager and all sorts and items of food and sauces I think were taken as well… various different things. Exactly what he did drink, I don’t think I know.’

Sam was drinking with friends as part of a rugby club initiation (Picture: PA)
He was a second year student and died at a house in Gloucester in 2019 (Picture: GoFundMe)

The University of Gloucestershire made 22 recommendations following a review into the culture and practices of sports clubs and societies.

Senior coroner Katy Skerrett asked student registrar Stewart Dove about peer pressure.

He said: ‘I think there is no doubt there was a culture in that group, which meant you probably felt you had to attend and had to join in. I don’t think we can try and duck that issue.’

Recording a conclusion of alcohol-related death, Ms Skerrett said: ‘Sam clearly consumed a large amount of alcohol at that event. There is nothing to indicate attendance was anything other than voluntary.

‘Clearly, there is an element of peer pressure in any such event, but the evidence points to this being a voluntary attendance by Sam.

He was the equivalent of nearly five times over the drink drive limit (Picture: Esher Rugby Club)

‘What seems very clear is the amount Sam consumed tragically exceeded the amount that than cause fatal alcohol toxicity and very tragically Sam succumbed to the effects of that toxicity.’

Speaking afterwards, Mr Potter’s parents, Kevin and Lindsay, said: ‘His strength of character made it all the more shocking that this had happened to him.

‘It appears that none of the students involved had any idea of the dangers associated with drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short amount of time, or how to recognise the signs of alcohol poisoning and the potential for it to be fatal.

‘Education around this is key. But so is addressing the problem areas in the culture of sport that can exist at universities.

‘We are heartened to hear of the independent research that has been undertaken into the culture of sport at the University of Gloucestershire and problem initiations.

‘We also recognise that this is not just about the University of Gloucestershire and that it is likely there are many other universities in the UK with similar problems.

‘Our hope is that by increasing the awareness of these issues, universities step up to try and change things for the better for their students.

‘Affecting positive change in drinking culture will not be easy but we have to try.’

In a joint statement the university and the students’ union said: ‘We have already begun work to ensure the culture of sport at the university is changed for the better, building on the strengths identified in the report while also learning the lessons of this tragic case which has been deeply distressing for all concerned.’

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