Whilst there are no catchy slogans to embrace during the campaigning season, the content of Ellie Robson’s manifesto is more than enough to make you pay attention. Ms Robson says she is “dedicated to improving the experience of University sport for all students” and claims that she has the “fresh outlook” necessary to achieve this.
Inextricably linked to this is her extensive participation of the Cheerleading Club, where she currently serves as president but has previously been treasurer, publicity officer, and a regular competitive member. It is this experience of understanding how a club runs on a day-to-day basis that Ms Robson believes sets her in good stead for the role of AU President.
Accessibility of sport
The accessibility of sport at this University is the first thing Ms Robson addresses, and she takes a decidedly different tone than candidates in previous years.
Ms Robson shows an appreciation of the “heavy financial burden” that certain equipment-heavy sports like golf and fencing can place on students’ ability to participate, and this is something she aims to change by liaising with Director of Sport Stephen Stewart to allow students to request financial assistance from the University.
This is a unique policy drive, and if the money were to be made available to students who need extra financial support to compete, Ms Robson would leave a major legacy for sport at this University.
Strengthened Saints Sport community
Ms Robson goes on state that whilst the varsity and Road to Murrayfield set of events were good last year, there is room for improvement. If elected, she would pursue more “large-scale events” to strengthen the sense of community amongst the University’s sports clubs.
Ms Robson also hopes to hold showcase events for smaller teams, thereby building “on that sense of community and engaging with each other rather than just seeing our sport and our way forward.”
Her idea to take advantage of the Sports Centre’s redevelopment and showcase more clubs is fantastic and symbolises many of the ideas in Ms Robson’s manifesto: simple and straightforward ways to effectively promote more teams at this University.
Ms Robson’s long-term association with the Cheerleading Club, one of the University’s smaller sport clubs, is made apparent in her next policy focus, club development. If elected, she would balance the long-term development goals of larger clubs with the short-term needs of smaller clubs. Ms Robson is correct in saying that all clubs deserve equal opportunity to thrive and succeed, but she fails to fully elaborate how this would be achieved.
Ms Robson’s strategy includes bringing back pre-season as an option for all clubs, not just the University’s performance teams. She would also set up monthly meeting for clubs to discuss with why they feel they have failed to perform to their best. More contact between the AU President and the clubs themselves is integral to improving the quality of sport in St Andrews, and therefore having those meetings would make sense. You would have to consider, however, how financially feasible pre-season is for all clubs and how many would actually follow through on Ms Robson’s offer.
Closely linked to her ideas regarding club development are Ms Robson’s aims for increased representation for smaller clubs. Whilst it is arguable that her emphasis should be on all clubs, the proposed implementation of a weekly office hour to meet with individual athletes is a good step and has the potential to really close the “disconnect” that Ms Robson notes has occurred between the AU and clubs in recent years.
Along with the office hour, Miss Robson’s proposals include “broadcasting club events, highlighting successful performances,” and using social media to promote live sport at the University. This is an excellent idea and would be both well-received and cost-effective. It would merely involve more effective use of the Saints Sport media team and social media accounts, which the AU already has in place. However, these accounts have been in existence for some time and have never truly functioned efficiently. It is hard to see that changing now.
Overall, Ms Robson hopes to widen access to sport for all students and speak to club members on all levels. She explained, “It’s only through speaking to all members […] that you really understand all the issues and benefits people are getting from Saint Sport on personal level.”
The final part of Ms Robson’s manifesto looks at establishing a greater degree of transparency between the AU and the sports clubs it looks after. She says that this would involve updates of how the AU is working to help all clubs, publically sharing numbers on the allocation of funding and resources, and providing clear and detailed reasons for approval or denial of requests.
In theory, this would be a major step in changing the “closed shop” mentality that has come to surround the AU in recent years. However, theory is often different from practice, and it is unclear how these proposed policies would sit with current University guidelines.
Overall, Ms Robson’s manifesto is concise and filled with realistic and achievable goals (all of which have students at the forefront). If these were to come to fruition, Ms Robson’s term as AU president would make sport more inclusive, competitive, and interesting. With over 50 per cent of St Andrews students involved in sport, this is something we can all view as highly positive.