Saint Sport Editor Richard Browne reports from last Thursday’s AU Exec Question Time, which gave representatives of the University’s sports clubs the opportunity to ask AU President Andrew Hall, and other members of the AU Executive, about issues relating to their club and sport in St Andrews in general.
The question-and-answer session took place in School 6, with the majority of the AU Exec – plus Rona McIntosh (Club Development) – in attendance.
Andrew Hall opened by saying he was very pleased with the rising profile of sport in St Andrews. He also revealed that changes to the AU constitution were being made, with the clubs to be updated early next year. In short, the changes were to the electoral process – the AU is to be brought into line with the Students Association by using the Single Transferrable Vote system.
Hall completed his opening remarks by indicating that the Blues and Colours award dinner would be changing to the Saints Sport award ball. The date is to be set once clubs have consulted their members.
The first questions addressed the position of Rona McIntosh, who is leaving the AU after Christmas to head the Glasgow 2014 volunteers team. The search for a replacement has begun (aiming to get someone in by February at the latest), although there are also discussions taking place on how the existing AU structure serves students, and whether it might be improved. Hall suggested that the general structure is likely to remain unchanged, although the assignment of roles and responsibilities within that could well be altered.
The next topic to come up was how the AU measured clubs’ performances. The league rankings (like those of BUCS) are certainly influential in that, said Hall, but they are also mindful that there are plenty of clubs who perform outside of standard competition. Ultimately, he said, it is up to individual clubs to highlight their achievements, with some – he gave the Canoe and Sub-Aqua Clubs as examples – better than others at reporting their results.
Other factors that considered when defining performance were given as clubs’ ability to cultivate the talents of outstanding individuals in conjunction with Debby Sargent, Performance Sports Manager, and their success at getting members, keeping them and organising trips and charity initiatives.
Several teams then asked for clarification on travel arrangements: how to arrange it, and who could drive. The AU is also looking at getting all-weather tyres in case of adverse conditions, though it remains with police recommendation for driving in certain conditions. In terms of contingency planning, if the AU was to be aware of clubs travelling for fixtures, they would update them on the conditions; yet much of it was dependent on the club members’ common sense in particular circumstances.
Hall also confirmed that an AU Exec meeting earlier in the day had discussed the possible mergers of some clubs (such as the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Clubs becoming one Basketball Club). They plan to pilot the mergers with and without sporting directors, to see the effect on the clubs. In answer to a few concerns, McIntosh emphasised that the AU would be working with the clubs rather than enforcing a news system on them; Hall said that they hoped to see how successful the mergers would be on an individual club basis.
The session livened up on the subject of facilities. Asked for an update on development, Hall confirmed that plans were in place, thanks to £12 million that had been ring-fenced for sports development (although the local authorities would of course have to be consulted). A new sports hall would have the capacity for two basketball courts, as well as more space for badminton and netball, while 3G would likely go ahead inside the athletics track. Next year will hopefully see indoor tennis facilities and new Astroturf for the outside courts – with the current surface unplayable with even the tiniest amount of rain.
Answering individual clubs’ concerns on facilities, Hall said a new ramp for Snowsports was a work in progress, while he would check the status of the climbing wall after representatives from the Climbing Club wondered where it would be relocated to. The gym would become a ‘Sports Development Suite’, though storage space would be maintained. Martial Arts inquired about their promised dojo room; again, that would be double-checked.
Another prickly issue was teams’ training times, the “worst part of the job” according to McIntosh. Clubs with more competitive teams would be given priority, as would those buying into the Sport Centre’s excellence programmes. Mergers would also be taken into account, for example if clubs had one coach and training time instead of two.
Recreational sessions would also be maintained: clubs’ members (and those signed up to Fitness+) would be prioritised, allowing clubs to take ‘ownership’ of the session, but the sessions will of course remain open to anyone.
These were the main points raised by the session. There was less controversy compared to recent years, a sign that the AU is doing more to listen to individual clubs’ issues and act on them. Nevertheless, it is clear that the great challenge for the AU remains running such a diverse sports programme with the limited (space-wise) facilities they have. Regarding facilities, the organisation has made some big promises, and the students involved in sport in the next few years will be the judge of whether they are able to deliver on them.