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Union Wobbles on Sports Partnership

Jan 10 2007 09:48
Ashley Brown
The Union has raised new concerns over a sports partnership with College's "Sport Imperial" division.
All your balls are belong to us? (Photo: Jan Chlebik)

Last night's meeting of the Union Executive Committee put off a decision on the final terms of its sports partnership with the College, due to concerns about the attitude of Sport Imperial.

The partnership was originally proposed around a year ago, with the Union rejecting the plan outright as it looked like an attempt by the College to take over the sports teams. After negotiations by Deputy President (Clubs & Societies) Eric Lai a veto was added allowing the Union to block any actions it feels would move clubs towards direct College control.

Under the terms of the agreement sports teams will receive extra funding and support, along with an extra member of staff paid for jointly by the partners to handle sports administration. The partnership was approved earlier in the year, with Mr Lai lending his full support to the idea. However, Lai has now expressed concerns that Sport Imperial are already taking over events. Previous partnerships with College have led to the loss of student-led events and associated profits.

The annual ACC dinner is one of the first events to be consumed, with College looking at running it as a "Sports Partnership" dinner, at a cost of £50. Not only is this a high cost, it is proposed to run it during the exam period and close to the centenary summer ball. Lai expressed his view that the Athletics Clubs Committee Chair, Luke Taylor, had "offered it on a plate" to the College.

A Sports Festival was originally proposed by a student to run during May, as a centenary event to raise money for the Student Opportunites Fund or Beit Redevelopment. Sport Imperial are now running the event, claiming it will make no profit and hence not donate any money. The event would charge £50 a team for four sports, with over ten universities and sponsorship in the form of corporate teams. A barbecue and bar - almost a license to print money at sports events - would provide additional sources of revenue.

The primary concern with the transfer of sport to College is the promotion of sporting excellence over inclusiveness - when BUSA points are the most important thing, is there any room for less skilled players? The Union is to seek further assurances and safeguards against a complete take-over of the sports clubs.

Update: Lauren Davies (ICSMSU Clubs and Societies Officer), who originally proposed the Sports Festival, has asked us to note that it was always aimed at being non-profit "to encourage participation and the highest quality of sporting performance possible". It is still student-led, with financial and administrative support from Sport Imperial.

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Discussion about “Union Wobbles on Sports Partnership”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jan 10 2007 10:12

Would this attitude have something to do with the fact that sport imperial is now part of commercial services, the money making arm of IC?

These are the nice people who put up hall rents to pay for a free sports centre.

Jan 10 2007 11:53

I hate to say this, but..... I told you so.

Now let the Sport and Leisure empire rise and Imperial College Union fall one step at a time

People really should listen to me more!

Jan 10 2007 12:30

Sports Dinner

  • The only input or influence Sport Imperial would have on the Sports Dinner would be that it involves Imperial College Students, and that a table of SI representatives would be present. Full Stop. No 'Take Over'.
  • Maximum cost of the Dinner discussed at the meeting Eric Lai attended along with Lauren Davies and myself was £40, which was before sponsorship. This is in line with the cost of smaller events run by Union clubs and socs.

Sports Festival

  • Sport Imperial have reorganised an initial idea proposed by a student into a much more inclusive event open to all HE institutions and specifically targeted at UL colleges. The 'back of the envelope' calculations regarding costs and potential profits have not been done yet following the changes discussed at the meeting Eric Lai attended, again with Lauren Davies and Myself, and assurance was given by Sport Imperial that they would abide by the agreement for all profits to go to the Student opportunity fund.

Eric Lai has deliberately misrepresented the details of the events discussed at a meeting held between Sport Imperial and the Union, to the Exec due his own personal feelings towards Sport Imperial. His small minded political games threaten both these potentially fantastic events, and his inability to engage in constructive dialogue at meetings further expose him as an example of a particularly deceitful breed of small minded politician I have always feared he may be. Needless to say he has entirely lost my confidence and support.

Luke Taylor, ACC Chair.

Ooooooh, that feels better...

Jan 10 2007 13:31

To be fair Eric made it perfectly clear that he was voicing his own opinion. Live! is not here to dictate minutes, and they took only the most obvious tag-line.

Exec was presented the facts, Eric presented the paper in a way that certainly favoured the Sports Partnersip, and then afterwards gave his own opinion, which he is fully entitled to do. His concerns were related to the relationship between Sport Imperial and ICU, concerns that he certainly does not uniquely hold.

James Millen

SCC Chair and Executive member

5. hack   
Jan 10 2007 14:18

ummm... It seems that Mr Taylor is not too aware of the SI empire building history

Jan 10 2007 16:21

Mr Taylor is fully aware of the College 'Empire Building' history, but with £30,000 given by College this year to Sports Clubs for Instructors, and £70,000 spent last year on Kits and Tracksuits for sports teams, He can see the benefit of utilising the money and support available from College.

And all this with no change in the control or influence...seems like we should have told them to shove their £100,000 and leave us to fend for ourselves...

Luke Taylor, ACC Chair.

Jan 10 2007 16:26

I believe that it was closer to £45000 spent on kit (half of which was bollocks - women don't play hockey in shorts, though it was very kind of them to give it away to random students for free).

So that's a total of £75k - not quite the same as the ~£360k the Union spends on C&S. Though obviously, if Sport Imperial is going to fund the ACC then the Union can cut it's funding. I hear Sci-Fi need a bigger library...

Jan 10 2007 17:44

union patriot: you wouldn't have heard that from me would you? :-)

Seriously though: this is a similar discussion to the one i had in exec last year - the money and support sport imperial is prepared to give to this project is fantastic whether £100K or £75K, the problem is what they get in return.

As Danny rightly says, SI have a history of empire building and safeguards have been built in to mitigate this, such as the ACC remaining the ACC and all ACC events being called ACC events, not sport imperial event.

Unfortunately these safeguards require student officers to stand up for themselves and also to make sutre that clubs don't go to SI behind their backs.

Oh and Luke: before you suggest that Eric is unduly anti-Sport Imperial, you should know that he was the partnership's most ardent supporter when it was conceived last year and put a lot of work into making it a reality over the summer. to suggest he is now trying to sabotage it seems a trifle odd.

Simon Matthews

DPCS 2005-6

9. cap   
Jan 10 2007 19:18

"The only input or influence Sport Imperial would have on the Sports Dinner would be that it involves Imperial College Students, and that a table of SI representatives would be present. Full Stop. No 'Take Over'."

So explain why you've rebranded it as the 'sports dinner'? (a very Imperial commercial wing thing to do...). What was wrong with a name that actually described the event for what it is. If it was truely a sports dinner then surely your planning team should have a rep from every CSC containing a sports club?

I don't quite follow the connection SI's input/influence and the dinner involving IC students...surely as an ICU event thats what the ACC dinner always did?

Jan 10 2007 20:36

What the hell is this idiot on about? No change in the control/influence of sports, why the hell are they investing money into sports clubs. Why can't that "support" from Sport Imperial just be given to the Union to improve its support, if that's what's needed?

He talks about kit Sport Imperial bought, which was low quality and has the tacky Sport Imperial brand on it. Were the students consulted on the design of the kit? Of course not!! The medics clearly stated that they don?t wish to wear red and mentioned that their sponsors were not happy with the colour either but they didn?t listen.

11. rower   
Jan 10 2007 20:49

I think additional funding for sports at Imperial is definitely a positive thing. The boat club has benefited a lot from the additional funding from the college. However it all comes at a price. We are not even allowed to name the boats that the union buys for us!!

Jan 11 2007 11:34

Rower: "We are not even allowed to name the boats that the union buys for us!!"

I'd like to know where this falsehood comes from. In all my many years of involvement with the Union, I have never seen the Union deny the Boat Club naming rights on the boats the Union bought for them. Indeed, the club even asked me if I'd like one named for me - which honour I did decline. I suspect that you are confusing boats bought for the club by the Boathouse Committee or the Harlington Trust (both College setups) with those bought by the Union.

Jan 11 2007 14:28

A good,lively debate...This is proving frustrating reading!

A response from Sport Imperial for the record....

1.Sport Imperial does not want to take over "sport". We simply want to make resources,facilities,budgets,equipment,scholarships,coaching and expertise available to the interests of sport,health and wellbeing.

2.Sport Imperial does want more students to play sport and more students to play sport better.These are not mutually exclusive...and they are equally important.Sport Imperial would like to acknowledge those sportsmen and women that have represented this Institution(and its Union)successfully in one way or another.

3.Sport Imperial has invested in and provides some of the best sports facilities both in the sector and in the area.In addition,we provide free facilities for gym and swim for students at Ethos.No other British University does this.We will continue to aim to improve facilities and services available to students.

4.Sport Imperial wants to continue to work with the Union,its clubs and officers in partnership for the betterment of sport.

The establishment of the sports partnership,and our ongoing commitment of resources for this are an important part of this process. In recent years we have committed large amounts of funding in coaching,kit,scholarships and facilities...and are planning to continue to do so.

5.Sport Imperial fully understands the value of student sport and is consulting with ICU about a Stategy for Sport for Imperial.This Strategy will aim to ensure that the future for sport at Imperial is secured,resourced,planned and developed.This plan will place the needs of student sport at the heart of its delivery.

6.The only agenda is sport.We want it to be an integral part of the student experience here and will continue to drive that agenda forward.

Neil Mosley

Head of Sport Imperial

14. pedant   
Jan 11 2007 19:48

Dear Neil,

It is customary for there to be a space inserted after commas and full stops. Also, your incessant use of ellipses is worrying. One uses an ellipsis to mark an omission, what is it that is not being said? Anyone for a game of fill in the blank?

Finally, one cannot have a single agenda. Agenda is the plural of agendum thus one should state that the only agendum is sport, or is this another example of text being omitted?

15. rower   
Jan 11 2007 20:32

Dave Parry: No I am not confused. Since Neil Mosley started working at Imperial all the boats are named through a committee which SI sits on...

Jan 11 2007 20:35

pedant: .............

Jan 11 2007 20:37


You can come and post on here and spin it any way you like but one thing you seem to forget is the students of Imperial College aren't stupid and we see through everything that has been building for the past few years.

At some point you are going to have to just come out and do the takeover in public because believe me, there will always be those of us in the Union and around that know exactly what you are up to and you won't be able to pull the wool over our eyes with a bit of tatty kit.

The fact that you've come onto this discussion board to defend yourself is quite frankly, pathetic. I hope you cleared it with the management board beforehand but from reading your statement it it would appear not.

Why doesn't the whole department just leave for Loughborough where I'm sure you'd be more welcome?

18. sporty   
Jan 11 2007 20:39

Could you not have chosen a more up to date photo than that one, featuring as it does Tim 'Chuffnuts' Collins who left in 2003, and a very young looking Will Green?

Speaking of which, I'd still love to receive the team photos taken by Mustafa Arif at the Gutteridge Cup in 2004, when the 2nd XV beat ULU to retain the cup, and the 1st XV turned over a medic team that had been rampant in the Varsity Match mere weeks earlier. Great day, and a real shame that we never got access to the team and celebration photos.

Keep up the good work, Pee Wee.

19. Editor   
Jan 11 2007 21:11

Live! doesn't have a good stock of sports photos - I pulled that one from the College digital photo library.

Of course, sports teams are welcome to send in their photos and sports reports and we'll run them in our dead Sport section.

Jan 11 2007 21:12

Rower - are you referring to the "Centenary Boat" or similarly named vessel?

21. rower   
Jan 12 2007 04:40

no I am talking about every boat. I understand that the "Centenary Boat" was purchased by the Harlington Trust and it is one of the few boats which wasn't named through the committee which SI sits on.

22. Me   
Jan 12 2007 11:37

Dear pedant,

It is customary when writing a letter to include a valediction to match the salutation. "Best Wishes" would be a good choice in your case.

Best Wishes,


Jan 13 2007 09:24

I would like to clarify a few things regarding the Sports Partnership. I have been a supporter of the partnership since it was first mentioned and I still believe that it could benefit sports at Imperial greatly. The aims of the partnership are to provide a common strategic view of sports at Imperial between the union and the college and provide a forum for students to express their needs in sports. I don't think it is inappropriate for SI to spend money on a dinner and award colours at the dinner when the money can be used to provide additional coaching and equipment for clubs. I feel that events should be student lead and organised and the partnership was not designed to be involved in student events. The partnership idea is still very immature and we should take an active role to shape this so our sports clubs can benefit from the additional funding and support.

Eric Lai,

ACC Chair 2005/2006


24. Jon   
Jan 14 2007 20:23

I know from my own 2 year experience how difficult it is to get money to fund clubs at IC and I think it is rather narrow minded to potentially lose the funding from Sport Imperial. I know the kit the rugby team recieved wasn't of the highest quality but we certainly didn't have to spend £1500 on a set of shirts.

If Sport Imperial overcome the major issue of floodlighting at Harlington then they can't be a bad thing as far as I am concerned.

Jan 15 2007 01:59

re. Last post,

Sport Imperial are paying £3,000 this year for two mobile floodlighting units at Harlington to solve the problem for this season.

Jan 15 2007 09:29

They own Harlington, of course they should pay for the floodlights. The deal they got with QPR should be more than enough to pay for damn temp flood lights.

Jan 15 2007 14:33

Sport Imperial does not own harlington: the Harlington Trust does. SI simply maintain it on their behalf.

Jan 16 2007 23:33

I don?t normally like to get involved in these debates any more, but?

In my opinion, a sports partnership that is handled well could provide infinite benefits for sport at Imperial. (I don?t personally believe Sport Imperial have a conspiracy up their sleeves?if they did, they could have executed it years ago without all this debate!) The important thing the union needs to ensure is that the move to such a partnership is handled openly and with full consultation from the affected clubs and students?something I?m sure Luke and Eric will ensure.

Imperial sports teams visit maybe 30 other university campuses a week just for BUSA fixtures, never mind the other leagues Imperial teams play in. Whether they like it or not they are representing Imperial College (Union) and the image they portray reflects the external image Imperial College portrays, so the college is going to have an interest in the sports clubs, their kits, their performance etc. (Indeed if I remember rightly, the new sports kit was a prime example of senior college staff caring about that image.)

I think sceptics of such a plan need to remember where that £366k spent on ACC clubs last year come from?college subvention. Unless I?m mistaken the college is not required to give that money to the union and indeed could choose to take that money out of the union if it so wished. I think the best strategy for the union and its clubs is to ensure a partnership is set up that has full student representation and safeguards the existence and funding of mass participation sport and not just elite sport. (Remember, if students are not involved, the money could still be diverted from the union with students having little or no say as to how it is spent?.a perfect example of this is something very similar which I think happened at Sheffield University about two years ago). A well structured partnership could be key in accessing both greater internal and external funding for sport.

Looking at the suggested sports partnership draft agreement ( presented to Exec last week, I would suggest that the union would benefit from pressing for a larger committee to support this partnership?.maybe including a student representative directly responsible for ensuring the survival of smaller more vulnerable clubs or something similar? I would also recommend maybe suggesting an external independent college representative. (The college sports committees have in the past been chaired by people such as David Chadwick, a Chem Eng professor ? in my experience this independent voice has often helped keep the committees on a sensible path).

Nicola Williams

ACC Chair 2003-2005

PS. Let Sport Imperial organise the ACC dinner if they?re prepared to. From previous experience it takes a huge amount of time and effort for the ACC committee to organise?time which could be much better spent representing the ACC clubs.

29. Editor   
Jan 22 2007 14:46

Please note that this article has been updated with some additional information.

30. Sam   
Jan 24 2007 10:39

All this shilly-shallying around is obscuring the important question: <strong>How do I get a boat named after <i>me</i>?</strong>

<strong>Sam Sharpe</strong><br />DPCS 2000 - 2001<br />Council Chair 2001 - 2002<br />God Knows What Else

Jan 24 2007 10:43


  • Give lots of money
  • Break in to the boathouse and rename one
  • Die in a freakish but highly entertaining manner
32. Sam   
Jan 24 2007 10:49


I shall die of paint fumes after breaking into the boat house to rename a boat. The police will be mystified why I was carrying £10,000 in used £5 notes, but will hand it over to the Boat Club.

That should tick all the boxes...

Jan 24 2007 13:13

Funnily enough, they seem to have one up for grabs at the moment - Harlington have given them nine grand for a 'Women Coxies Four'. Go for it Sam!

Jan 24 2007 15:25

re: @sporty (above)

"Speaking of which, I'd still love to receive the team photos taken by Mustafa Arif at the Gutteridge Cup in 2004, when the 2nd XV beat ULU to retain the cup, and the 1st XV turned over a medic team that had been rampant in the Varsity Match mere weeks earlier. Great day, and a real shame that we never got access to the team and celebration photos."

I'd like to see them too. Unfortunately, since I was the only photographer there on the UL Cup Final day, Felix took my films off me and processed them (as they, understandably, wanted to use the pictures in Felix which was going to print the next day.

The Felix Editor "lost" one of the films (the reserves cup). The photos from the other film (Gutteridge cup) was returned to my Deputy President (Clubs & Societies) who "lost" it while scanning them for some glossy brochure. If the current incumbent of either office could have a good look for these photos I'd be extremely grateful, as I'm sure would be the rugby players that day.

Jan 24 2007 16:43

I wouldn't hold out on us having those films. A lot of stuff got messed up when the roof leaked, and it seems Rupert threw a whole bunch of it out.

I'll look when I tidy the office later on.

Jan 24 2007 17:36

Andy, we all know your not going to tidy up the Felix office. Some of us remember the tip that your room in halls was.

An old friend

Jan 25 2007 03:06

Actually I walked into felix this afternoon and thought I was in the wrong students union... Andy was obviously bored!

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