Following recent questions about the cost of UEA Sport Membership (previously known as ‘SAM’) I am keen to address some of the concerns plus provide an update on the work I am currently undertaking to address these.
uea(su) and UEA Sport have been working collaboratively on a project of financial transparency, specifically around the finances of Club Sport and the value this gives students. Recent conversations between students and Sports Club members have been incredibly insightful and confirmed the importance of the need for greater transparency.
I am currently working with UEA Sport on a ‘Cost of Sport Analysis’. The first part of this is a comparison with the Club Sport programmes of other universities. We have constructed a survey to evaluate their best practice and challenges in order to shape our sporting offer here at UEA and to ensure that we are providing value for money for our members. I am also looking at hardship funding options and alternative membership cost proposals throughout this research to see what more we can do to support those who find cost to be a barrier to getting involved with Club Sport. If anybody would like a copy of the survey and/or the questions that are included, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to send this across to you upon request.
I am also keen to do a comparison between the UEA Sport grant funding provided to our Sports Clubs and the overall cost of taking part in a specific sport through mapping out the “hidden” costs members often experience through the year. For example, this could include anything that you have to buy on top of your membership fee such as playing kit, additional equipment or officiating/match fees. Once we have collated feedback on these hidden costs (both recreational and competitive elements) we can compare this data to the grant funding that Sports Clubs receive. This is a complicated piece of work due to the variety of budgets and cost variables involved. However, I feel that any indication of funding differences is important to consider.
Financial transparency around the cost of Club Sport for members and students alike is an area that has needed improvement for some time. As a general principle, Treasurers and other Committee member signatories have better insight and understanding of how finances operate for their respective Sports Clubs. However, this knowledge is not always fully filtered down to their members, which results in questions about what their membership fees contribute towards. Once I have received the results from our current research, I will be working with the UEA Sport team to provide some joint communications to members on the finances of the Club Sport programme. These will detail the breakdown of what the University currently invests into the programme alongside a plan of action moving forward that incorporates the key learnings from our research.
It is not a simple case of being able to make changes overnight. Budgets are set a year in advance which restricts the ability to be flexible once they are set. It is also worth noting that the University has put pressure on departments across campus to make savings where possible, of which UEA Sport are not exempt. The team faces a challenging task in managing their budgets amidst the additional financial pressures resulting from the pandemic. They continuously work hard to support the delivery of the Club Sport programme and in looking to ensure that each Sports Club has equitable opportunities compared to other Clubs.
Our Execs are elected by you in order to represent their respective Sports Clubs. They are voluntary positions and they give their time and energy for free. They receive more information and are often involved in strategic conversations around Club Sport. As a result, they have a deeper understanding of how the Club Sport programme operates. However, with this additional knowledge and responsibility comes challenges, especially around managing expectations of what is possible whilst advocating for their Clubs. They’re fantastic at lobbying on behalf of and speaking for their Clubs. I truly couldn’t do my job without their support, especially their insight in Exec meetings and raising key issues. Exec teams have been pivotal in developing the sporting offer at UEA in recent years. I’m saddened that some of our Clubs do not feel represented at present and we need to continuously work to ensure that the existing structures that support the Club Sport programme remains relevant for our members. I welcome any suggestions, ideas or feedback that can help us to address the issues surrounding the effective representation of our Sports Clubs. We must strive to ensure that our members feel listened to and supported when they raise issues and concerns with their Execs and trust that these issues will be taken seriously. We must also think about the needs of our prospective members and how we ensure that our sporting offer is as attractive as possible.
However, any posts that single out and publicly target any one of the Exec team for open criticism is unfair, uncalled for and unkind. As a UEA club member it is of course your right to hold the Execs to account and provide challenge, however there are set processes to help support you to do this – see below. We would also ask that any members raising issues do so in a manner that is appropriate and respectful.
Alternatively, you are always welcome to raise your concerns directly with me as your Activities and Opportunities Officer. If you feel the need to make an official complaint, you can do so by following the below guidance on the Students’ Union website:
If anybody would like to discuss any of the above points further please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or to come in to the SU office above the Hive.