In the run up to the 2015 SUSU elections, the Wessex Scene team have been interviewing all the candidates for the roles on offer. Here I caught up with Roman Martin, an applicant for the role of VP Sport Development.
There’s been a lot of talk about improving the lines of communication with AU clubs, how do you intend to tackle this?
The problem this year is that communication has started too late really. Some people have criticised me on this, but I believe that trying to speak to as many people as I can face to face from the outset is the best way of improving communication. Even a group Skype call with, for example, all the water sports presidents around June and July would make a real difference. Developing the website and perhaps a few emails with a contact list is something that I’d aim to carry out as early as possible.
Timetabling and organisation will always be an issue, as it has been this year..
I can definitely relate to this, having been president of the boat club this year, in terms of not always knowing who to speak to. Even simple things like sending out a mass email with a contact list and suggestions on who you should go to for a particular issue would be very helpful.
You’ve talked about keeping performance levels high within the AU, but at the same time there is an increasing focus on mass participation. How are you going to ensure both things happen?
In regards to wider participation, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have only really started playing later on in their time at Southampton. Increased visibility at the bun fight is a good starting point, more teams having a stall out on the concourse would help and it’s free too. Team captains or anyone within the teams going up to halls, walking around and handing out flyers is something I’d recommend. It can be a bit of a pain but could well be worth it when you get an extra ten or twenty who are interested, and potentially somebody who could end up in one of the top squads. The importance of just making your club/society known shouldn’t be underestimated.
I’ll be the first to admit my knowledge of intra-mural isn’t great and that’s perhaps where I fall short a little bit. Again in many ways it falls back to improving communication. If there is an intra-mural team that is showing exceptional talent, AU clubs should be knowing about it straight away, be it through twitter feeds or facebook for instance. Anything that shows others a picture of what is going on as quickly as possible will be essential in balancing increased participation with quality.
With that said, how would you intend to go forward in the development of ‘Team Southampton’ ?
I think everything needs to be a little more unified. I can understand a lot of clubs just want to keep themselves to themselves but I think when there has been an achievement, then a ‘Team Southampton’ twitter feed for example would be a good way to highlight that club’s work. Especially in terms of sponsorship, all these fantastic results etc. should be seen as a unified achievement, which will encourage sponsors certainly. At the moment there just isn’t that unison between all the clubs that I’d look to enhance.
Following on from all these ideas, how do you think you can draw on your experience of being president of the boat club? VP Sports Development undoubtedly involves a lot more work..
A lot of people have reminded me of that! There are still many similarities between the two roles though, this role (VP Sports Development) is just on a much bigger scale really. Being able to delegate properly and making sure you do so to the right people, is something that I’ve definitely learnt from my time as president of the boat club. Taking on too much by yourself won’t help things flow smoothly, but being organised and speaking with the right people and giving them the correct tasks certainly will.
Like you’ve said in your manifesto, there is only so much you can do with funding because it’s very likely often going to be a fixed amount. How will you be looking to deal with this area?
I have a bit of an alternative to this and must have gone on about it to so many people, but there are different sources of funding available! There are external options too. The cycling club are a great example that I often point to as they had a ‘sportivate’ scheme this year which I took part in, and I didn’t realise they made a very decent amount of money from that scheme. It’s been so successful and I believe they’re looking to carry it on until 2017. They always want to get more people involved and to sign up, also bare in mind they have a target number to reach as well.
This is a situation where I think if a lot more clubs had known about this around June or July, they would have been ready come September to get the scheme going. There are all these schemes out there and I would just say at the moment it’s a bit of a lack of awareness in approaching this view and what is available. Many want to be promised that they will get more funding from the university but Southampton only has around £200,000, which is quite a lot but that’s not going up anytime soon – so we’ve got to look elsewhere. I think fundraisers are a good idea but trying to find sponsorship is the big one and helping people know where to look for external funding and the help itself.
Katie Lightowler mentioned there was a bit of a problem with the handover period last time round. You’ve said you’re keen to have a successful transition period..
Definitely. I spoke to Katie before I submitted my manifesto and she agreed it was very much like one person stops and another begins. Many I assume are put off because in the June period you’re not paid and you officially start on the 1st of July. I finish my exams around the 30th of May so I’m more than happy to have a proper handover and shadow Katie for a bit, work out what needs to be done and just work out all the little things such as booking facilities.
If we get as much done as possible over June, July and August it clears up space to tackle other upcoming issues for September, as I’ve previously talked about.
Finally, imagining you’re elected and into the role come September, what will be your primary personal targets to achieve during your role?
One of the big things that I believe sets me apart from everyone else, is amongst all the issues of finance and AU and I’m keen on appointing a representative of all the casual users of the gym. Many forget that the VP Sports role covers everybody who plays sport, no matter what the level. Currently there are 9,000 students who have Sport & Wellbeing membership, only about 1200 actually compete with AU teams, and often the majority who don’t can fall through the cracks. The AU clubs may not want me to say that but it will help their setup in terms of training and more convenient slots with differing memberships.
One of the issues we’ve had particularly (boat club) is with the gym at Wide Lane in that it’s open to everyone from about 9am-6pm, but then after that it’s only open to AU sports teams. Being a student sometimes we want to train in the middle of the day and people who aren’t students want to train in the evening. I’m sure there must be some way of electing a representative for all these casual users so we’d be able to find a better balance of facility bookings from which everyone can benefit.
The tiered membership people are either very pro or very con, but I think it’s a really good idea and although it’s not too expensive, those who only go to swim don’t necessarily want to be paying £150. The only issue with that though is Sport & Wellbeing do have money targets they have to reach.
That being said my aim is 100% to make it cheaper next year for people who only want to use certain facilities but in all honesty I can’t definitively say what I would do. Whether it potentially means making pitch hire more expensive, which is a pain but in my head that’s still better because you’re paying a little amount throughout the year rather than forking out a huge lump sum in one go for example. A lot of risk analysis has to be done with that but without doubt it’s something I’d work extremely hard on for the benefit of the whole student community.