Sabbatical Interviews 2013: Evan Whyte, VP Sports Development


You mention near the start of your manifesto that there was a £30,000 underspend in the AU last year. What have you done to try and avoid a repeat of that this year?

This year, it definitely won’t happen. We’ve spent £202,000 of our budget already, which is £108,000 up on the same point last year – £185,000 of which has been granted to our AU clubs and sports societies. I’m pretty sure there won’t be much left at the end of the year, we’re on track to finish on budget. We’re also looking to increase the amount of funding we get through external sources, I’m really pleased with what we’ve done so far on the bids we have submitted.


Do you feel liaisons have been better between AU clubs and VP sports this term compared to last year?

Yeah it’s improved greatly. The reps, who are the link between Lucy Dowdall (AU officer) and I, and the sports zone student groups, have done a really good job so far. Information has been handed out to the clubs as soon as we find out, which ensures groups don’t have to constantly email the VP (which allows me to push ahead with project work).


What plans do you have to tackle gym congestion in the Jubilee Sports Hall? Is the initial idea of an another gym still feasible?

I have to say it was one of my more outlandish goals to create another gym within the union itself, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress this year. There’s going to be a gym in the new Mayflower halls of residence, but we’re still waiting for confirmation of when it’s going to be open. We’ve also expanded Focus Sports from 3 to 5 sports teams, meaning we have more people using the Team Southampton gym, which will take some of the pressure away from the Jubilee – although the effects won’t necessarily be felt this year due to the increase in student numbers.

We’re also looking closely at how we can communicate busy times in the Jubilee to students. I’ve got a more detailed breakdown of peak usage and plan to look at when people use the gym, to encourage them to use the other facilities we have. I think it’s more of a communication issue than a lack of space, but the Team Southampton gym is making good progress (due to planned revamps) and there’s still the Mayflower to open, which should help in the future.


The start of this semester saw the introduction of the new intramural system of refereeing. How effective do you feel it’s been since it started?

It’s definitely an improvement on last year and I think intramural this year has been a lot better than it has been. My background in intramural meant I could spend a lot of time on it with the committee – who have been really helpful. The refereeing system for football has its pros and cons; some have turned up late, others haven’t shown up on a few occasions, but overall I think it’s an improvement on previous years. It will be helpful to have more student feedback on the systems at the end of the year. But, we’re looking at running different refereeing courses as part of an improving Skills project as there’s the budget for us to do so.


Have there been any issues with teams travelling to away fixtures? I saw it was something you wanted to prevent in your manifesto.

On the whole I think it’s been alright. We handed out £163,000 in the first round of funding, so a lot of clubs had a lot more money than they have had in the past so travelling to fixtures hasn’t been so much of an issue this year. I know there was one team who couldn’t get to a game because they didn’t have the players (due to lecture timings) and one team broke down on the way there, but generally we’ve done pretty well so far.

The big test for us will be in the second semester when things get a bit more serious in the competitions and there’s a few more away games than there were before. But I’m hoping that the clubs will have enough money to get there, assuming they have enough players.


What are the latest updates from the #teamsoton campaign and unifying the team kits?

So just a bit of background on it. We’ve achieved £48,000 worth of sponsorship funding, with £30,000 coming from KPMG (a two year contract to have their name on the kits) and £18,000 from the University from the Education Enhancement Fund (formerly the Student Centredness Fund). The project was approved by council on the 2nd of December and the order has been placed. We’re just waiting for a few sports clubs to send us back some details abut we’re hoping to get the kit just before Varsity this year. I’ll write a blog post about Team Southampton, in the new year and there will be a ‘launch’ of the kit in time for Varsity.


Do you think anything has stopped your policies being implemented or are you up to speed on your initial aims?

I think my manifesto aims compared to my Sabb plan have shown that when you run for a sabbatical position you look to make quick wins (and they do have big benefits sometimes). Rather than looking at long term plans which can really transform the student experience. I think the main thing I’ve done this year is the unification of the team colours, which will have a long standing effect and that’s why it has been the main thing I have pushed so far.

We’re looking to do more with the community and we’re working with two schools this year and that will have a long term effect on how we distinguish ourselves as a sporting community and how we interact with local communities (from both the union and sports club perspective).

In terms of policy, the ones I’ve wanted have been passed by council. The really big problem with some of our goals is that they require a lot of capital funding, so when you have those ideas about needing the new gym or the new sports hall, sometimes they’re just not feasible. Things like improving the drainage at Wide Lane mean lobbying the University, although there’s been a marked improvement this year since only one set of intramural fixtures have had to be called off and very few AU fixtures.

Overall it’s about thinking smart and making the most of the resources we have available to us, so opening another gym wouldn’t be the best use of what we’ve got and but encouraging better use of what we do have is the best way forward.


We’re a few months away from Varsity, but can you tell us anything about the preparation for it?

I think after the issues we had with it last year, I made it one of my first priorities to get the dates right, which I mentioned in one of my blog posts. Richard Glover, who’s the VP Sports at Portsmouth , has been really helpful so far and we’ve had two meetings so far this year where the rules have been drawn up and a list of teams that are going to compete. Staff members are currently in the process of coordinating sports timetable for the day. We’ve got a lot of things ready for it, so by 2014 we’ll basically be ready to go. There’s a few small things to sort out but we’re working on those. We are hoping it’ll be a massive day and that we win this time.


What are your main targets for you to achieve for next semester?

I think the Team Southampton unification has taken up a lot of my time so far this year, since it’s a massive project. My student leaders have done a fantastic job so far; Adam Proudley and Jake Bradley (AUC member) have put in a really good bid for Sport England funding to go towards helping disabled students participate in sport. It’s around £16,000, to go towards adaptive boats, archery bows and we’re looking to start a wheelchair basketball club, which is one of the things I really want to push and make successful for years to come. Apart from that, the community projects are important. Sport Relief and the free school sports sessions are something I want to continue with next year.

Another thing I think that’s really crucial, but might not have an immediate effect, is the training of our AU presidents and captains. We’ve put together a training manual and a training day, including how to manage and apply for funding, advice about running a club/volunteers and equality and diversity training. It’s about giving them an understanding of what the officers are working towards so there’s no mixed messages and people know exactly what we are aiming for and expect from them. It’ll also make sure there’s no unexpected debts that arise out of the blue and that hand overs to new committees are done properly.


Finally, have you enjoyed your role as a sabb so far this year?

I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m happy with what I’ve done so far this year and what we’ve planned for next year. It’s fast paced, there’s always people in and about the office but at the same time I get to spend time doing something that I love and looking after sport at the University.

The only bad thing so far has been that as a student, sport used to be my release from work and so playing sport is now work, and even watching it means thinking of new ideas and different things we can do. But that’s not a bad thing and I don’t think I’ll have another job like this in the future with the power and authority to really change things and spend a lot of time with other students.



Professional moaner and student of Politics. Twitter - JTaylor704

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