As a fifth-year chemistry student, AU Presidential hopeful Tom Abbott has certainly seen what sport at this University involves, and he believes this sets him in good stead for the position.
Several years on the Cricket Club committee have shown Tom the inner workings of a University sports club, and he also has experience collaborating with the AU: previously, he has discussed training facilities with incumbent AU president Ben Peddie and liaised with Deputy Director of Sport Ian Gaunt to organise the Super 8s Cricket tournament. This experience is certainly something that works in Mr Abbott’s favour, as do some of the policies outlined in his manifesto.
The first of these elements can be broadly defined as interaction, mainly focusing on the divide that seems to have grown between the AU itself and the sports clubs it is meant to represent. Mr Abbott hopes to remedy this by meeting with the presidents of all AU-affiliated clubs in the opening weeks of the new academic year, “regardless of size or performance,” in the aim of increasing contact and cooperation between the clubs and the AU. It would also mean that the clubs’ goals are more likely to be realised over time.
This is a commendable idea and something that, whilst fairly basic, would go a long way in ensuring closer cooperation and improved relations for the term of Mr Abbott’s presidency.
Mr Abbott also discusses transport, an issue dear to the heart of all active sports competitors at this University. He aims to try and remedy the situation by staging a “comprehensive review of the AU’s transport system and budgets” because he believes that there are “still steps that could be taken further” to improve the service the AU provides and that students are able to enjoy.
Although Tom does suggest that some focus would be placed on clubs, many of whom he says massively overspend their transport budgets, he also plans to employ broader strategies. These would involve contacting local rental companies to ensure students are getting the best price possible and also contacting airlines with an aim of negotiating reduced rates for domestic travel for BUCS fixtures and international travel for tours. Whilst in practice these are good ideas, there is no real guarantee that either will amount to much progress, meaning transport could still be an issue.
Ensuring reliable and complete provision of kit for clubs of all size is something Mr Abbott also places heavy emphasis on in his manifesto. He says that too many clubs are “left without kit on time or incorrect kit,” and he aims to improve this situation by opening channels of communication between himself and kit suppliers and ensuring the two have strong relations.
With the PlayerLayer contract up for renewal at the end of this academic year, Mr Abbott wants to meet with both their area representative and representatives from the head office to include contract clauses that better serve the interests of students. This is a positive step and would hopefully improve the kit issue that has been a consistent thorn in the side of many St Andrews clubs.
Mr Abbott’s next point is an interesting one, as he promises to work with the director of sport and other sport and exercise staff at the Sports Centre to make clear guidelines for what it takes for clubs to achieve “performance sport” status whilst also tailoring rules for clubs that do not participate in regular BUCS competition. Mr Abbott hopes that this will drive clubs towards better results and improve both their profile and that of the University.
Making AU policy clearer is incredibly important, but The Saint is sceptical as to how much of a difference this would actually make. Indeed, it is hard to determine how much of an incentive the guidelines would be in driving up club performance. Likewise, this policy could arguably help to further divisions between performance sports and other clubs affiliated with the AU, therefore perhaps damaging Mr Abbott’s earlier promise of great interaction and cooperation.
Mr Abbott’s final policy drive is perhaps his best. He says that he wants “to expand the coverage of every AU club” and would liaise with the Saints Sport media team and town’s media outlets to get events and progress covered.
This is a clearly thought-out policy, and it will help one of the fundamental issues that has arisen for clubs in recent years. Integrating multiple media outlets will increase their combined capabilities and should mean that sport at this University gets the profile it deserves.
Overall, what Mr Abbott’s manifesto may lack in concrete policies it more than makes up for in a clear passion and enthusiasm for student sport and representing the interests and talents of those involved. There is a clear vision to what he has outlined, a vision that has the potential to really change the future of sport at this University.