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Subversive takeover of Sports Clubs by College?

Dec 09 2003 12:19
Leonora Lang
The introduction of support from College Sports and Leisure may provide exciting opportunities for clubs, however these lie amid concerns of loss of student control of their clubs and surrounding where College's intervention would end.
It's a high profile sport, really!!! or maybe I have biased friends....

Sport and Leisure decided last year that college need a Sports Development Plan (SDP) to develop sport in the following areas; facilities, participation and excellence. It is an excellent idea, and with an SDP, money can be requested from external organisations and from College to improve sport in all areas.

Last year, the SDP was proposed to Nona Ahamat (last year’s Deputy President for Clubs and Societies) and she was asked for comments. Then all too suddenly, a strategy was proposed for the SDP and a decision was made to employ someone in April of next year to implement the scheme, which seemed like a bid from S&L to organise College sport. The outcry was more that Imperial College Union had not been involved as much as it would have liked in the process to formulate the SDP. At present, the Union organises sport and S&L manage facilities, although curiously ex-Union Student Activities Manager, Nick Gore was employed by S&L in October this year.

In a recent S&L committee meeting; a high level college strategic meeting, after much verbal prevarication, the chair asked Neil Mosley if he wanted to run college sport. Mr Mosley did not quite give an answer although the implication at the end of that discussion was no.

It would seem that College are genuinely interested in furthering sport here, by getting people involved in sport and excelling. The benefits to the college are reputation, both nationally and internationally. However it appears to be very BUSA (British Universities Sports Association) oriented. In the BUSA points league, Imperial is currently 38th and there are many Russell group members above us in the ranking. The SDP can be given a very defined objective – to move Imperial up the BUSA points league. College would be working in collaboration with the Union, to see the development of Sport at Imperial. The college involvement will bring more resources, for example S&L would like to be involved with the IC varsity match, a yearly collision between IC and ICSM, and have offered to underwrite the cost of the match.

However College’s interest would seem to bring conditions, the boat club for example with its generous funding has been under increasing pressure to take part in BUSA competitions. If College increases their sponsorship of sports clubs, it is likely they can expect more pressure to perform well and receive more recommendations for appropriate competitions to attend, along with structured training sessions.

In contrast, the Union is happy for clubs to go and organise their own matches and there are facilities for travel if it is needed. Clubs are free to run training sessions how they wish, and there is no pressure to attend any specific competitions, although attendance of BUSA competitions is well subsidised. Basically, clubs and societies are run by the students and the students decide what the club does and achieves.

How are Clubs and Societies funded? How are facilities allocated?

The Union funds all clubs and societies, unless they find their own sponsorship. The only exception is the Boat club, although there are two clubs that actually use the boathouse in Putney. ICU Boat club and IC Boat club, which consists of members that are not necessarily IC students. The boat club is a very special case as they have a scholarship scheme and are a centre for excellence.

College give the Union a subvention, which is split around the Union, for example for building maintenance, staff payroll and admin. Approximately £300,000 is budgeted for clubs and societies, and any that is not spent is put into Exec Reserves, which is allocated through Exec. For example, Student Activities Committee may make a claim for part of that money at a future date.

Facilities that are managed by Sport and Leisure (S&L), like the Sports Centre are negotiated on an informal basis, although this year’s timetable is basically the same as last year’s timetable. The Union runs the Union and Southside Gyms, and this year have kept the same timetable. The Union pays for all facilities centrally to S&L, with bookings taken at the beginning of the year.

There definitely appears to be a move from the College to become more involved with the Union with regards to coordination of College Sport. However it remains to be seen whether or not the Union will be receiving more money to manage the sports or whether someone will be employed by S&L to realise the SDP.

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Discussion about “Subversive takeover of Sports Clubs by College?”

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.
Dec 09 2003 14:33

The crux of this article would seem to be the paragraph 'However College?s interest would seem to bring conditions, the boat club for example with its generous funding has been under increasing pressure to take part in BUSA competitions. If College increases their sponsorship of sports clubs, it is likely they can expect more pressure to perform well and receive more recommendations for appropriate competitions to attend, along with structured training sessions.'

In essence, the College is offering funds to clubs who will increase their standards, and increase their performance in BUSA. That presumably comes under the remit of increasing excellence in IC sport. If this is to be measured by results in BUSA competitions, or other competitions which have been suggested by College, then so be it.

Clubs aren't being forced to take money from the College, or forced to compete. If clubs want the extra funds, then they have to work for them - this is surely the same as any other sponsorship deal, whereby clubs discharge their responsibilites to their sponsors; in some cases this might be attending their bar, or wearing their names on their shirts. In this case, the condition is to represent Imperial at competitions. Hardly the harshest condition for funding, in my view.

In addition, this paragraph would seem to negatively contrast the idea of structured training sessions financed by the College to existing arrangements. I would strongly argue the case for training sessions; under the Union's current budget, there is very little provision for developing excellence in sport, where instructor budgets are set in line with other Union clubs. Bemoaning that someone wants to make up for a perceived shortfall in certain budget areas, and claiming that in doing so they are restricting a club's freedom is somewhat depresssing. Of course the Union wants to increase participation in sports, but without effective coaching from a qualified instructor, participation will inevitably fall, as performance and results do.

To sum up, given that most sports teams in BUSA are extremely competitive, and that almost all would welcome additional funds which could enhance their performance, I'm slightly surprised at the tone of this article. While obviously the Union must remain in control of its clubs and societies, extra investment is always welcome.

I feel that the best outcome for clubs would be for the Union and College to work together to develop excellence and participation. Union clubs benefit from money from College, and College can secure more funds based on the credibility and success of existing Union clubs.

Dec 09 2003 23:30

The more succinct point of the article surely is that there is some empire-building going on in the College and someone thinks that Union sports would be a nice prize.

This has to be stopped. There is an clear plan to take over Union sports, and it will be done bit by bit each year so as not to alarm each generation of Union officers.

If it is successful the Union will have a peripheral role at best and the College will reprioritise sports according to its PR needs. Elite, high profile sports will get provision. The rest will be marginalised. Student input will be advisory at most. The point of the current structure is that students have complete ownership of what sports they will spend money on and provide for. Money would go to the Union as a whole, which would then spend it according to democratic committees. College giving money in separate parcels to separate clubs allows them to put conditions on that it never would do to the whole Union. Why can't that "support" from College Sport & Leisure just be given to the Union to improve its support, if that's what's needed?

Dec 10 2003 00:46

Presumably because the Union has repeatedly stated that it funds participation, not excellence (look at the instructor budgets for certain ACC clubs). If the College's aim is to fund 'Elite, high profile sports', then relocate the Union's budget from these clubs, to the clubs which aren't getting funded and supported by the College.

I think the problem is that in order to gain credibility, the sports development body needs to rapidly increase results (though larger funding) to key sports - certainly for Men's sports - football, rowing, rugby and hockey. Once these are in place (succeeding, and giving credence to the College's aim) then more funding can be negotiated and put in place for the other clubs which compete in national leagues and competitions.

Were the money to be given straight off to ACC, then all clubs would (rightly) request a share of the budget. If this budget were not sufficient to realise results in the timeframe which college (by proxy of its sports sponsors) required, then presumably said funding would be withdrawn, with little or no overall effect.

With all due respect, claiming that College's aim is to take over Union sports is shortsighted at best. The best eventuality for sports teams would be a partnership between Imperial and the Union, which would negate the need of sports clubs to seek outside sponsorship in order to improve.

If you asked sports clubs if they would like an extra ?Xk, which had to be spent on instructors, with the condition that they competed in BUSA or other competitions, I think you would find very few opposing it. Sports teams are by their very definition competitive, and any accessible advantage will be taken - I invite you again to look at the instructor's budgets for various ACC clubs.

Dec 10 2003 01:23

The Union has to fund participation, because it must act for the benefit of all it's members regardless of their ability.

The College wants to fund excellence, because it's a prestige thing.

I see no problem with this. The two aims are complimentary.

The problem only arises when a club becomes more about excellence than participation. Because from that point onwards College will be providing the bulk of the money for that particular club. The club itself will therefore consider itself more to be a College club than a Union club.

However in my experience, an excellent club (of which there are many at Imperial) must also have a sufficient level of participation to provide junior athletes to be trained to rise through the ranks. You cannot sustain a club with just a first team. (or in the case of which I am thinking, a First Eight!)

Sporty's characterisation of it as sponsorship is entirely fair. If College is offering money for Coaching, Transport and Facilities (which the Union cuts year on year), this money is clearly needed. The reason that the number of clubs which are Excellent are many and varied, but they can be put down to Training. College already provides the Coach for the Boat Club - why shouldn't they provide top class coaching to every club?

There would be less complaints if a random large corporation offered to fund those clubs in a similar way, so this is simply hypocracy.

I see only two problems:

Imperial College produces the finest small-bore rifle shots in the University of London, and some of the best in the country. It does this because while the facilities are a bit grotty, they are much better than that provided to students at most other Uni. So where is this production of champions going to happen when IC gets rid of it's rifle range to make way for some more swimming pool changing rooms?

What will happen to all the other Clubs? If the Sports clubs (and by that I mean the competetive sports clubs that attract prestige to the College) are funded well, aren't all the other clubs going to feel a little disadvantaged?

5. Sunil   
Dec 11 2003 15:07

There's no reason why extra support for an elite sprts club should in itself undermine any of the other sports clubs.

Also, the American model shows that official support for high-profile sports only enhances participation and facilites for other sports, there is a trickle-down effects. Many US universities, for instance, even feature thriving cricket and rugby team run by students, and these comfortably survive alongside the well-funded and professionally-run basketball, (american) football and baseball teams.

It's one thing to be suspicious of college (though its motives are anything but hidden) but quite another to chase an often chimeral independence at the expense of possibly increased excellence.

Dec 15 2003 18:35

sunil, you seem very keen on america; i remember you deploying some anti-anti-fees arguments again using america's astoundingly successful HFE system as an examply. have you thought of emigrating? i could be persuaded to provide the ticket if you promised never to come back and not to post rubbish to this site from your new home.

7. Sunil   
Dec 17 2003 17:00

madcap: if my arguments are rubbish, counter them point-for-point with better ones, not by childish anonymous ad hominem attacks. You know zilch about what I think of America.

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