As Sarah Thompson comes to the end of her second term as President of the Athletic Union, it again appears to have been relatively successful, albeit with some inevitable minor issues.
It is unusual that someone fulfils a Sabbatical role for two years and therefore this year presented a unique opportunity to the German graduate, allowing her to build on a year of learning and adaptation to really help further the Athletic Union and the development of Sport within the University.
One big achievement this year will have been to see the opening of the new Sports Centre, the first stage of three in a big plan for redevelopment of the sports facilities provided by the University. The refurbishment and expansion was done by the start of this semester and it has largely proved a success, both aesthetically and practically for the students and staff. This is obviously not entirely down to her but she had a great amount of input on design and other aspects.
Similarly, the continuation of the Varsity matches, with the Men’s and Women’s 1sts games both being held at Murrayfield, is another major contribution put in this year by Ms Thompson and was a fantastic showcase for the effort, talent and dedication of the rugby players at this University and indeed indicative of the rest of the sports clubs that she represents.
One of the cornerstone aims of Ms Thompson’s first spell as AU President was to change the kit supplier, with the deal moving from Kukri to O’Neills. However, the deal with the Irish-based company did not work out, with the kit arriving late to clubs and generally being of a poor quality, meaning that again one of her main aims was to secure a new supplier.
One was found in the shape of PlayerLayer and this seems to have been a major success of this term as president. Barring a few hiccups in the early going, it seems to have been punctual and of a good quality, giving the players a more professional veneer than its predecessor did.
Popularisation of Sport
Continuity was very much a buzzword of Ms Thompson’s manifesto for this campaign, aiming to ensure stability and continued participation in Sport across the University. With an efficient online membership database now in effect, this year has again seen more people become members and make use of the University’s facilities.
Participation, based on membership numbers, now stands at around 65%, which reflects the emphasis that she has put on participation throughout both of her years as President.
Citing her increased ‘experience’ in the role, Ms Thompson highlighted that improving relations between the AU and the University’s Sports teams was a priority for this year and was something that she would aim to personally drive, putting the priority on the clubs within and not on the AU as an overarching body.
On the whole this has been a success, with more and more clubs making events out of their BUCS fixtures and more clubs now seem to have representation within the AU. Things are obviously not perfect but on the whole they seem to have improved during this year and look set to continue.
A cornerstone aim of this campaign, and one of the more concrete ones within the manifesto, academic flexibility was something Ms Thompson wanted reviewed and potentially improved. The overall aim was to negotiate with Directors of Teaching and negotiate for students to potentially get exemptions from compulsory classes if they had an away fixture or an early start.
This was not made explicitly clear within the manifesto and seems, on the whole, to have seen fairly minimal success. Many older students have less classes but those that do are more vital and the academic work must take a priority as they approach the inevitable aim of graduation. Many clubs have big enough rosters and squads to deal with unavailability for certain fixtures and that is where freshers and second years play a big role, as they are better positioned to miss classes. There has been some success with tutors and teaching directors more understanding but overall not much. The reaction on this issue seems dependent from person to person and this was somewhat to be expected given the vagueness of the manifesto.
However, the wheels do appear to be in motion, according to Ms Thompson, for a new policy to be implemented in September. This will extend beyond the realms of sport, also covering other clubs and societies and should have an online system with it to make the process more straightforward. Assuming this goes through it will leave a lasting legacy for the current AU President and will be a big boost to the students and clubs at the University.
“As the number of clubs and teams continues to grow, transport remains a challenge for us but one that we continue to work on,” Ms Thompson said.
The other central focus that was highlighted by Ms Thompson was the need to improve transport and ensure a constant availability for clubs and certain means of attending their BUCS fixtures.
This does appear to have improved during this year, with the booking process seemingly much easier for clubs now and most clubs seem contented with the service they are provided. There is still room for improvement but her policy seems to have made inroads to improving the situation for our many sporting clubs. That said, some of the smaller clubs at the University have not seen an improvement this year, regularly not getting the transport they requested or not get any transport at all, forcing them to either leave players behind or dip into their own pockets to secure transport.
A new administration assistant was brought in in February to help address these issues and it has seen the situation improve so far this semester and with a deal in the works to replace the University’s current fleet for next year, there has been some progress. On the whole the situation does seem to be improving, but is something that future AU President’s will have to work on, especially given our geographic position.
The Saint’s Assessment
Commenting on her past year, Ms Thompson said; “I have continued to work with the other sabbaticals, and am really proud of the fact that we are now seen as a team of 5, rather than 4 union sabbs and an AU sabb.
“I’m really happy with how this year has gone, and what I have achieved. Continuity is difficult to sell to people during elections but I really believe that a second year has enabled me to make more changes than are possible in a single years.”
Overall, Ms Thompson can be pleased with her second year in charge of the AU. The opening of the new Sports Centre this semester has seen the start of the realisation of her ambitions and through that the future looks bright for Saints Sport. Increased participation within sport and improved relations between individual clubs and the AU will further this development.
Some of her bigger aims were not completely fulfilled but on the whole progress seems to have been made. Most of the things she aimed to have achieved have either seen changes or are have had the wheels set in motion for change in the coming year, meaning that a legacy has been created. The success of the Varsity games at Murrayfield and the reopening of the Sports Centre are lasting images of her term and on the whole she has made a positive contribution to the Athletic Union.