Intramural sport is a cornerstone in many students’ University life; whether it’s not having enough time to play for university teams, or simply not having the talent to compete for them, many people rely on the intramural system to give them a chance to play the game they love.
To play intramural sport, you have to purchase a Sportrec membership, which also comprises of unlimited gym usage throughout the year, and the chance to utilise any of the sports facilities Southampton has to offer. Student membership currently costs £130. The team then has to register and pay a further fee to the department which is dependent upon the sport they wish to play. This is the only way to play Intra Mural sport; the need to buy a Sportrec membership to register with a team is because it provides insurance cover for competitors whilst playing.
During the Intra Mural football season in 2010-2011, the league format on a weekend was relatively simple; proven teams and halls would play in League One and League Two, while newer teams and other societies played in League Three. The system worked very well, with teams getting around 10 games each. In 2011-2012, this system was eschewed in favour of group stages in both Wednesday and weekend leagues, which led into knockout rounds for cup and plate competitions. The resulting match-scheduling led to a ‘three-way-final’, in which three teams took part, playing each other once for 45 minutes to find an overall winner. As well as being a ridiculous way of determining a competition winner, the knockout rounds meant some teams only managed to play a maximum of five games in the season.[quote align=”left” name=”” role=”Intra Mural Football Participant”]Surely these teams should be refunded a certain amount considering they are paying for a service they are not receiving? What are teams paying for if they do not have a referee?[/quote]
This season has seen improvements on the part of the Sport and Wellbeing department, who have gone back to the league format of 2010-2011, promising that teams are now guaranteed at least 10 matches per season. After initial complaints that there would only be one 18-team league on weekends, the department opened spaces for 24 teams on a weekend, split into three leagues, and 12 teams on a Wednesday, split into two leagues.
The main controversy regarding the intramural leagues this season is the decision to more-than double the entry-fee for the league from £49 in the two previous seasons to £99 for the 2012-2013 season. The reason given for this hike in entry-fee is so the department can provide: “paid referees to each match along with first aid cover to ensure matches are played with fewer disputes and to cover any incidents more rapidly”.
While nobody I have talked to took issue with the fact that the fee had been increased to pay for officials or first aid cover, the anger over this instead seems to stem from the fact that referees are not turning up to officiate games. After the round of games on Wednesday 14th November, when very few (if any) games were officiated by a paid, qualified official, an email was sent from the Sport and Wellbeing department to all club captains stating: “Although we aim to ensure your matches are refereed, circumstances beyond our control can prevent this occasionally. However, continuing with the match means that you still get a game!”
Even though the whole point of Intra Mural is, as the above comment states, to ‘get a game’, when teams are told an increase in league admission-price will result in games being officiated, it is only natural to expect this. One annoyed participant, who did not wish to be named, noted; “on a number of occasions this year, teams have been without a referee, although this has been promised and paid for. Surely these teams should be refunded a certain amount considering they are paying for a service they are not receiving? What are teams paying for if they do not have a referee?”
Additionally, with a number of game-weeks having been called-off already due to poor weather, some teams have only played two games this University year. The hope is that they will be rescheduled early next year, not affecting the amount of games that are played. However, with the ongoing referee situation and cancelled fixtures casting a gloomy cloud over Wide Lane, the feeling is that many players do not believe they are getting their money’s worth from Intra Mural football.
In response to this article, a University Spokesperson told the Wessex Scene:
“Sport and Wellbeing are pleased acknowledge the recognition of improvements to Intra Mural sport alluded to in the article, and will respond to the frustrations raised below.
Sport and Wellbeing has a duty to its members and the wider University to manage its facilities as efficiently and effectively as possible. In order to achieve this reasonable costs for activities are levied, and in regard to Intra Mural sport these do include additional fees over and above the required Sport and Wellbeing membership. These Intra Mural fees, and membership costs themselves are benchmarked against similar institutions with comparable offers and are set at a level that allows the University to continue to invest and maintain its Sporting facilities and activities whilst offering value for money.
Sport and Wellbeing also note that the changes to the Intra Mural programme were agreed with the Sabbatical Officer for Sports Development and that further and additional consultation had occurred with JCRs and captains of teams prior to the season launching.
The Intra Mural programme is provided as a benefit to our members, hence the requirement for Sport and Wellbeing membership. Whilst it is true that membership provides insurance cover it is not the case that membership is required solely for insurance purposes.
The Intra Mural fee is not levied specifically to fund referees, but rather the whole of the Intra Mural programme which requires considerable administration as well as pitch preparation, the purchase of the website licence, first aid supplies, marketing support and a host of other related activity.
Sport and Wellbeing will continue to provide referees, but as the article states, there can be times when in spite of our best efforts this is not possible. We are aware that on occasion this has happened this year and are working hard to address this by getting more referees onto our books.
Whilst all outdoor games are weather dependent, and the exceptionally wet period we have had has meant that a number of matches have been called off, at this point Sport and Wellbeing envisage all the required games taking place, this situation will remain under review.
Sport and Wellbeing consider the low one off fee for the 2012-13 season, equivalent to 90p per player per game, to continue to represent excellent value for money.”
What do you think? Has your chosen sport suffered with the same issues? Have you been involved in an Intra Mural game this season without an official? We want to hear from you; email email@example.com and let us know what you think.