On Monday Evening the meeting of the Union Affairs Committee discussed and passed recommendations put forward by VP: Sport Luke Thomson regarding the possibility of two LSU sabbatical officers for Sport next year. This is a position supported by the LSU Exec team and should be a reality for the 2016/17 season.

In 2013, Loughborough University made Sport the fourth pillar of its operations and student sport has seen a dramatic increase in resources given towards it ever since. However, Loughborough is no longer winning BUCS team sports and there is an underlying feeling that without change the risk of loosing the overall BUCS title is growing. A reliance on individual sports such as Athletics and Swimming has been the saving grace for many years but with Universities such as Stirling beginning to attract top athletes from these programmes to compete in BUCS, six of whom are set to head to Rio in 2016, the worry about Loughborough’s long term dominance is greater than ever before. It is feared that unless the Athletic Union can begin to turn the tide, this could be the gradual creep away from BUCS success which has been a yearly nightmare for the student sabbatical.

Will the University allow this reputation damage to happen?

Although more resources have been given over to student sport, the role of the Athletic Union has changed little in over 10 years. There has been little growth and little dynamic strategy, typically the result of a yearly change of Athletic Union President, now VP: sport. This role has grown substantially in recent years and now, along with 3 administrators, is responsible for the operational running of the Athletic Union as well as setting strategic targets.

Is this fair to student experience and University reputation – potentially a popular Hall Chair with little care for Sport running the strategy of such a key driver in the Loughborough offering?

While discussing this strain, Label caught up with current VP: Sport, Luke Thomson, for his take on the changes. Luke proposes, in a paper supported by the Union Affairs Committee and the Board of Trustees (“How to deal with the growing remit of Student Sport”), a shift in the role of VP Sport and suggests the creation of a sabbatical Athletic Union Officer post which would be a year long sabbatical post but would not sit on the Union Executive Committee (The LSU “Exec”).

Luke’s largest concerns is that the VP: Sport role has grown beyond proportion and it is impossible for one single sabbatical to drive the section with the level of support provided. The role is essentially a firefighter for Athletic Union operations, having to be fully immersed in the day to day running of the Union’s biggest section whilst at the same time acting as a member of the Union Exec and trying to fulfill the duties that entails. The reality is 80 hour weeks and emails left unanswered for days. This position is confirmed by previous Sport Sabbaticals, including Steffan Lloyd (2014-15).

The operational tasks of the AU such as supporting clubs, chairing the AU Executive, dealing with kit, overseeing club budgets, looking after finance, managing reputation, running club committee training and more would be split between the two roles with the VP: Sport having the capacity to take the helm of the more strategic elements. The result would be a far more positive overall offering to students, Luke argues.

Non-AU sport has grown substantially as an offering at Loughbrough and the student voice in this area has suffered due to the demands of the AU on VP: Sport. With the shift, the VP: Sport would take the lead on Non-AU Sport representation and strategy. This would not amount to a split sabbatical team of performance and non-performance as the VP: Sport will be representing the student voice for all sport.

Luke’s detailed proposal states:

Given the Union is committed to ensuring that Student Sport at Loughborough is student led, and as far as possible student run, the proposal is the introduction of a second sport sabbatical officer.

After extensive discussion the democratic bodies of the Union suggested that of various options on the table, that the Athletic Union Officer would be a non-executive sabbatical officer who shall be elected by Athletic Union members in a separate election to the Executive Elections with a proposed 3 day campaign and a voting period co-ordinated by the VP: Sport, AU Executive and VP Union Affairs.

At current, the Union will be seeking financial support from the Sports Development Centre of the University in order to fund the additional position.

So Luke, with these changes enabling the role of VP: Sport to take a more strategic view of Loughborough Sport, will we see you campaigning for another year in office come the February Executive elections?

“Don’t tempt me!”, his measured reply.


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