Interview: Sarah Thompson, candidate for AU president

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Photo: Raphaël Benros

Read our analysis of Ms Thompson’s manifesto here.

What has been your history with sport up until now? What clubs have you been involved in? What background and experience do you have?

I’ve been involved in women’s rugby for the past four years, I’ve been on the committee for the past two, and I’m currently the president. We’ve been through a really big transitional phase, going from a club that couldn’t field a team to one where we can suddenly fill a team every week. It’s been really good to have experience of being in a small club with a few members and struggles, and now as part of a larger club. I feel that I can empathise really well with all clubs. I’ve also been involved in setting up a volunteering project in South Africa this year, working closely with the AU, as well as the Department of Sport and Exercise and Development. There will be three sports clubs going out in June for a month.

What are your main policies?

Collaboration, communication and development.

Collaboration: continuing to provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience within the club captains’ forum, so continuing to develop that. We need to keep all of the knowledge and experience within Saints Sport, and use it to help towards development. I also want to work more closely with the Students’ Association. I think we can reach a lot more students who are not necessarily involved in sports clubs, so if we work closely together we can improve the student experience on offer. Things like the world record Strip the Willow attempt that was set up a few years ago – [I would] really try and get things like that going to create a buzz around all sports. We should be promoting an idea of Saints Sport being something that everyone can be involved in, regardless of being involved in a club or not.

Communication: drop-in sessions every week so that students know there is a time set aside for them to come, whether in a club or not. Publicising sporting events, whether they’re home or away, to get students to support. Get them playing, increase participation and create a real buzz around Saints Sport. There have been a number of things that have been quite successful: the rugby club have had Wednesday and Friday night ‘lights’ matches, football have done it as well. It’s a real opportunity to get students down and involved.

In terms of development, working with the development office and clubs to promote alumni networks, and create them for clubs who don’t necessarily have them. Securing funding to help with development, promoting the South Africa trip as an opportunity to more clubs, and just to keep students at the forefront of the redevelopment so that we can provide the best sporting opportunities for all students.

How would you evaluate current AU president Jess Walker’s time in the role? Has she been successful? What would you do differently?

She’s very strong, she knows what she wants and she’s very good at driving and striving to get the best for Saints Sport. I know she works tirelessly to really put her all into Saints Sport. I’d continue that work; we’re both very similar in the way that we really care and are passionate about Saints Sport. There’s different policies, but not necessarily something that I’d change directly.

What do you think are the main challenges you would face within the role?

I think being able to help more clubs is a big one – every club is completely different. There’s not going to be one policy that you can implement that’s going to have a direct effect on all clubs, but hopefully by becoming more accessible and setting time aside for all students and clubs, that will help. The redevelopment of the Sports Centre is coming up, which is going to be something that’s going to have a big effect on students and sports. It’s going to be really great for us, so I’m going to be a real advocate of student sport and make sure that we keep our students at the forefront of it – that it’s student driven.

Do you have any other comments for voters?

I’m really excited about this opportunity, really looking forward to it. I think it’s a great opportunity. The opportunity of working there, following on from working with the AU this year to set up the volunteering project – it’s such a great organisation, there’s such a buzz around it, and I just really want to promote that so everyone can experience it. I didn’t do sports at high school, I wasn’t sporty,  and I’ve really come into it through being at university. I was brought into almost like a family of Saints Sport and the clubs. I really want to be able to give people an opportunity to experience that as well.

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