Last year, Tom Abbott was announced as the new president of the Athletic Union. Having graduated in the summer, he is now embarking on a year of work that will see him as an intermediary between the student body and the University on all things sport-related. He also sees himself as something as an advocate for any issues that arise over the course of the year. If last year’s student election campaign is anything to go by, there are certainly plenty of challenges ahead. I sat down with him during Freshers’ week to talk about the progress on his manifesto pledges and the upcoming Kingdom vs Capital matches.
Something that Mr Abbott stressed during his campaign was how his ability to communicate with people made him the ideal candidate to deal with the “divide” between sports clubs and the AU. He talked of how so far, he has used that helpful personality trait to be courteous in responding to emails. On top of that, he has met with many sports clubs in person to provide a face-to-face meeting and discuss issues, just as he promised he would.
Over the summer, Mr Abbott has also been reviewing the current situation surrounding transport for sports teams, something that has seen many clubs’ budgets simply disappear. He puts that down to the AU being quite financially tight, our sports program is “a victim of our own success,” he said. With more teams competing at national level, that has meant more travelling and hence further transport costs. In addition, there is also the funding of the Supported Athletes Programme, which aims to help students compete at an international level. In terms of addressing this issue, a University grant has meant that an extra 20 mini buses will be available in the new year. In the meantime, Mr Abbott is looking for alternative ways to offset costs, including perhaps charging by the hour for minibus usage for clubs that travel little and often such as hockey. However, nothing concrete has yet been announced.
Anyone who has been involved in competitive sport will be aware of the problems surrounding team kit. The moving of the PlayerLayer factory last year caused kit to be terribly late with little hope of a refund. In the time Mr Abbott has been at St Andrews, the constant switching of provider reflected badly. Hence, he promised that he would negotiate a deal with PlayerLayer over the summer when the previous contract expired. Since that campaign pledge, no new deal has been signed yet, but at the time of writing there is an understanding in place that late kit will be reimbursed. Mr Abbott also mentioned that he has been honest with PlayerLayer and alerted them that the lack of consumer confidence will only hurt turnover.
He has also been working with the Department of Sport to give a more concrete definition of performance sport. In more tangible developments, the AU has attempted to increase publicity in several ways. Firstly, a new fixtures and results portal has been custom made over the summer by the IT department, which is available on sports centre screens and online at st-andrews.ac.uk/sport. Secondly, the media team of the AU has been expanded and there is a new social media policy, including an Instagram called saintssport. However, Mr Abbott admits that more can be done. Although he says there is only so much that can be done on the clubs’ end.
Clearly then, Mr Abbott has been making good on his campaign manifesto. Whether negotiating new contracts; providing new minibuses; or even just talking to people, he has been proactive in addressing issues facing sport at the University. He also couldn’t resist mentioning how this year Varsity has been expanded to include 16 sports over 26 fixtures. If you have a question for Mr Abbott, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.