The second night of debates commenced with the Athletic Union Officer debate, which was contested by three candidates. These were Lara Brooks, Joe Gubbins and Stylianos Hadjiforados, committee members of the Women’s Lacrosse, Ice Hockey and Archery clubs respectively, and all members of the Athletic Union Executive Committee.
In their opening statements, the candidates clearly laid out the main points of their manifestos. Joe explained how we wanted to introduce more inclusivity to the Athletic Union, such as through increasing accessibility for people with disabilities and reducing costs, alongside introducing coaching qualifications. Stylianos explained how the concepts of diversity and welfare form the cornerstone of his manifesto, stating that “everyone has the right to sport”. Lara identified her three main manifesto points as increasing the Athletic Union’s involvement with fundraising, for example through charity tournaments, improving spectator attendance at home matches, and introducing a dedicated post-match venue for team members to celebrate together.
One issue that was heavily discussed was the affordability of university sport. Lara proposed countering the current problems by increasing the awareness of the benefits of each level of Sports Centre membership whilst also increasing promotion of the Sports centre app so that students can utilise their Sports Centre membership to, for example, book rooms. Joe suggested a monthly payment system for the Sports Centre to balance students’ expenditure throughout the year while also ensuring that the Sports Centre still receives the same level of income. Stylianos argued that finding most cost-efficient ways to carry out current practices, such as supplying transport and kits, would decrease membership costs without having an impact on the clubs’ abilities to carry out their core activities.
Difficulties in attending sports matches on Wednesdays because of timetable clashes was also an intensely debated point, which Joe describing how this leads to a high sport drop-out rate. All three candidates proposed liaising more closely with academic faculties to achieve a better balance between sport and academia; Joe argued that from his experience, academic faculties can be very accommodating in this regard. Lara advocated the need for greater promotion of sports across campus and to new freshers, including a bigger sports fair in September, more communication with incoming students about sports opportunities before they arrive in Newcastle, and provision of transport to Longbenton for trials and taster sessions. Stylianos criticised the Longbenton facilities as being inaccessible for disabled students and poorly lit at night, however struggled to find solutions to these problems. Joe emphasised the need for further training for club Welfare Officers, which he argued could be achieved through closer liaison between the Athletics Union Officer, the Welfare and Equality Officer and external speakers.
Further points discussed through the debate included clubs’ participation in fundraising and charity work, ways in which exceptional athletes can achieve more recognition for their performance, and the role of performance vs participation sport on campus with an emphasis on how BUCS and intramural teams are valued.