In the run up to the 2015 SUSU election, the Wessex Scene team have been interviewing the candidates running for sabbatical positions. Here, I interview Jamie Wilson, hoping to win his place as VP Sports Development.
Currently, a lot of teams – both full AU and intra-mural – have to pay a full gym membership in order to play when often they don’t want to actually use the gym facilities. Does your idea of a tiered membership deal with this issue, and could go into a bit more detail on how you envisage the system working?
It’s going to take a lot of work from myself and others within the Sport and Wellbeing system in trying to put out a tiered membership. But I plan to cover- especially those intramural players who often just to want to play sport recreationally and not use the gym’s facilities- the facilities usage as lined out in my manifesto. I personally would just plan to use the off-peak membership which will cover those players in intra-mural if I can make it available. Hopefully, this in turn will reduce the overcrowding problem Jubilee currently faces. I’ve spoken to people who have waited for over half an hour to just use one piece of gym equipment and do that regularly! Of course there are other facilities such at the new gym at mayflower and the Team Southampton Gym, but obviously people just mostly want to use the facilities on campus.
Returning to the question though, I plan to get something sorted where you can pay a slightly lower fee and still play for those AU clubs, but this is something that has to be agreed and sorted with Sport and Wellbeing first.
So you don’t see it as something that will go as exactly to plan as you propose in your manifesto?
No, I aim to achieve a tiered membership as suggested in the manifesto. There may be things extra that are thought of, changed or added which are suggested by students as they will be consulted in the decision process, I’ll ensure that this happens. After all, we are a University, we should be catering towards what students want and not what the University wants, which at the moment is a £145 membership, something I feel is slightly too much for casual users.
You say that you want to deal with the problem of congestion at the bunfight, but at the same time say that you want to introduce more intra-mural teams to the bunfight to increase participation. How do you aim to decrease congestion and introduce more stands?
I think it’s an organisational issue that needs to be tackled to achieve this. I think that last year the corridors in the old sports hall were slightly too narrow which slowed everything down, and this meant people not getting in. I would just aim to ensure that it was more properly thought out, perhaps provide an option where you don’t have to go through all the non-sports societies just to get to the sports societies and vice versa. As well as that, I’d hope to use the Garden Court facility, last year I don’t think this was used, but this could be a good facility to optimise to make more stands at the bunfight possible.
The intra-mural societies side of things I would aim to have on a separate day, but if there was a way I could make room for them in the actual bunfight, I think it would be better to get them in there with the actual clubs. But on the flip-side this could cause confusion if intramural and AU clubs were next to each other, as people might not recognise the difference. So having intramural on a separate day may be a better way to stop the bunfight becoming too complicated. It’s something I definitely would have to work on, it would mostly be just slight changes.
As it is currently I do love the day, but it just needs a slight restructure to when people can enter and leave. I think a lot of people missed out on the sports section of the bunfight last year as a consequence of this poor structure. More clarity on the day is needed fundamentally.
The App and website that you discuss in your manifesto sounds like it will take a while to create, do you have plans in place to begin production of these immediately if you were to win?
The website is something that, if I were to win, would be a big focus for me. I think that SUSU’s website- whilst it’s great that the societies have their own pages- is a bit hard to customise with regards to any extra information, and currently intra-mural has no space on there whatsoever, which for me, is a massive problem when it comes to advertising it, especially as SUSU have taken it over this year. These clubs need to be on there somewhere. So to me, instead of overcrowding the current SUSU website, it would make sense to take it out and create a separate Team Southampton website. This would be something that I would start working on straight away.
I’m not sure how long it would take to develop, as it could be quite complex including putting in live scores etc., but I would definitely aim to have it done by the end of the year and have it come out for around September 2016. I’m not going to kid myself and say I can do it in a week, it is a very complex aim. I still need to find developers and people to maintain it, so there are a lot elements to it. Therefore I wan’t to make sure it is something that is sustainable before it goes into place. The App would share a similar timetable. I’d aim to make it so that teams can customise their own separate spaces, input scores and input simple updates. I think it will be a fun way to keep in contact with team Southampton and help to build the brand across the campus.
In tangent with this I want to hopefully get a scoreboard up somewhere in SUSU, maybe on the screens in reception or something similar, to make sure that the successes of our clubs are recognised, wherever and however I can. This is something that is very important to me.
You state how you will carry out the ‘Sport Strategy’ that is currently being set by SUSU, do you have a rough idea as to what this strategy will entail and how it will fit in to some of the policies in your manifesto?
At the moment Katie and Sport and Wellbeing are working very closely together in order to get the final details into the strategy. Within the discussions we have had with a few focus groups, it’s been talked about how there is a trade-off between participation and performance. From this discussion, it seems very much that participation will help drive the performance, but at the same time, you can’t just leave performance to be dependent on participation – we need to find a really fine balance between the two.
Part of the participation aspect will be making sure that the facilities are being used effectively and working with Sport and Wellbeing to get use of external facilities, grass pitches and sports halls, so that all teams can train and play. Take the weekend before last, every single grass pitch match was cancelled on the Friday, and that’s something that I personally find annoying- to say the least- when trying to get leagues finished. So getting more facilities will allow us to have a bit more flexibility when matches are cancelled and allow teams to train.
As well as that, we have 91 sports clubs now. We are running out of space and time for clubs to use the facilities currently available, and eventually this will start effecting all clubs who have training time, so we need more facility time to maintain the levels that we currently have.
So it’s more the organisational and facilities aspect of the strategy that your manifesto will help with?
Absolutely, this will be key to ensure that the Sport Strategy can be carried out. Take for instance disability sports, there are currently clubs such as archery and the rowing club that cater to this, but it would be great to get a disability specific sports club on its own. Again, it’s definitely a long-term thing, I just want to make sure that what is said in year one is continued and, coming from my experience, I think this will be important. In my opinion continuity will be very important in implementing this strategy.
There have been some criticisms in recent years that the AU and SUSU are in a way very separate entities, how would you say your policies aim to unify the two clearly, if you aim to unify them at all?
I would love to bring them closer together. However, the AU in the way it works is massively different compared to other clubs. Obviously it is part of SUSU, and if I were to be elected it would still be part of SUSU. However I don’t see it being any different in the way that say the Performing Arts similarly act away from SUSU at times.
The website in effect would be a reflection of this, but I wouldn’t take anything off the SUSU website, because ultimately we are part of SUSU and SUSU is something that funds us, keeps us going, and it is therefore extremely important to recognise how important SUSU is to these clubs.
VP Sports Development is the most contested sabbatical officer position this year, what would you say sets you apart from the other candidates?
Experience. My experience in the sports zone and sitting on committees I think will allow me to just continue the work that Katie has done as well as add my own ideas. Some people say that being involved in SUSU is bad, but I disagree, I do and will actually have an idea of what I am doing. I have more experience in terms of an intra-mural than an AU background. Therefore, I feel that I am distant enough that I can still see the issues within the AU, whilst at the same time being involved enough that I can see ways to sort out these issues and minimise the issues to clubs.
Do you see the step-up from the intra-mural side to the AU role as effectively a natural changeover then?
Sort of. What I really meant was that coming from an intra-mural background and stepping into the AU, I can see problems in how the AU is run. Coming in from the committees this year, I feel that I will immediately know the issues that have to be dealt with, whereas people within the AU might not see these issues or say not know how intra-mural works as I do. It’s quite a complex system unfortunately.