Those who play team sports for the University, in BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) and other major competitions, might already be aware of the recent decrease in funding for travel to competitions.
Established team members might also remember that two years ago, clubs had 60% of their BUCS travel funded and that last year travel to BUCS competitions was 100% funded. It may therefore be an unpleasant surprise to come back to BUCS, having done well last year, to find that all clubs now have £1800 to transport all teams around the country every week up until March.
When you consider that to send two hockey teams of 11 people, to Exeter in a coach it costs £595, it is clear to see that this funding is only really sufficient for one-off competitions and not for a whole season of competition.
The AU has over 80 clubs, of which a great many compete in BUCS and major competitions. There are clubs such as football which have three or more teams in the BUCS League and as each club has £1800 to cover travel costs, those with more teams are really going to feel the pinch.
Caroline Hughes of Southampton University Ladies Football Club explains that this ‘will have a drastic effect’ as at the moment ‘it’s likely neither team will be able to afford to travel to our away games.’ Which subsequently means ‘both teams forfeiting the cup and half their season,’ this is all the more frustrating for a club, which wants to attract Freshers and promote Ladies Football as a sport as ‘where’s the incentive for [them]to join the club when all we can offer is a maximum of five home games over the season?’
‘where’s the incentive for [them]to join the club when all we can offer is a maximum of five home games over the season?’Caroline Hughes
Ladies Football are not the only club feeling discouraged, the Treasurer of the University Squash team, Daniel Barry cannot comprehend the ever diminishing funding for his club. Two years ago the Squash team received £1600, of which £800 was spent on coaching, BUCS travel was 60% funded and local travel provided for. Last year the club received £700, BUCS travel was funded but the club lost funding for local travel. This was a big loss for the team as last year alone, the four Men’s teams played 33 and the women’s team nine away games in the local counties.
In light of the loss of BUCS funding this year, the Men’s teams played eight and the women’s three away BUCS matches in places such as Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea. This year Daniel estimates that the club will travel in excess of 2300 miles for BUCS competition. With funding of £372 and £1800 to fund all five teams to travel all 2300 miles this is surely not sufficient.
The tragedy lies in the fact that last year the Squash Club had a very successful season, with the 1st team playing in the premiership against elite players. Toby Moth also won the Individual BUCS competition.
This year, with new team member Natalie Dodd, who competed for Guernsey in the last Commonwealth Games, the squash team are looking to continue the success and ‘represent the University on a National scale.’ However ‘if we don’t have funding to travel we might very well have to pull out of BUCS,’
‘if we don’t have funding to travel we might very well have to pull out of BUCS,’Daniel BarryTreasurer of the University's Squash Club
Unfortunately this does not only affect the University Squash team but also the Medic Squash team who have been national champions for the past three years. The Medics are members of the University team and thrive on the coaching and competition provided, therefore this problem is more widespread than appears.
To explain why these cuts to travel funding are having such a big impact, it’s important to look at the changes to BUCS over the past three years. It used to be that all teams played each other in weekly matches up until January when there were knock-out rounds. The system has since changed to resemble the National Football League so there are now weekly matches up until the end of March. This means that there has been an increase in BUCS matches, which is theoretically brilliant for all teams involved, regrettably it does mean that it is extremely costly.
BUCS is an national organisation but Southampton currenty compete in the Western League which includes places such as Plymouth, Exeter, Cardiff and often Aberystwyth. There has, however, been some effort over the past three years, to move Southampton into the Eastern League. The decision will be made this year, therefore the situation could change for next year.
The current financial structure limits committees’ direct contact with the money, but VP Sports Development Jonny Brooks believes that “students should be awarded with more trust to deal with their budgets independently.” He states that “the current system isn’t particularly popular and consequently another restructure is likely.” Unfortunately a restructure “won’t come into action until next year after proper research and consultation.” However, Jonny says he is ‘ready and willing to help any struggling clubs this year to the best of my ability.’
“I’m ready and willing to help any struggling clubs this year to the best of my ability.”Jonny BrooksVP Sports Development
It is important to note that BUCS isn’t the be all and end all, some of the University’s most successful clubs for example, Ice Hockey and Sky Diving do not compete in BUCS competitions.
But for those affected, it is understandable that as a student, living costs, university fees etc. can already be difficult to manage without adding the mounting costs of competing for the University. So if you are affected and are unsure as to what to do, be sure to contact VP Sports Development Jonny Brooks. Constructive discussion and information from you could give a good picture of who is affected and what the student experience, which the University is judged on, is like. So don’t be afraid to speak up!