Union Cuts: Will Sports Suffer?

With Sports Association Membership potentially on the rise, will UEA have to say goodbye to former sporting glory?

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With major cuts to union funding anticipated, next university year there is a strong possibility that sport membership prices will rise considerably.The Tab spoke to a number of clubs about the negative impacts increased membership would have on both popular and niche sports at the university.

Union funding for sport stands roughly at £171,323 a year according to ueastudent.com, an amount which is unlikely to be replicated if the union fails to make ends meet financially.  From September a SAM card, needed to participate in any sports club at UEA, could potentially rise from £40 a year to £100.

Cuts to union funding leave them struggling to make ends meet. Will sports memberships suffer as a result?

£40 is a large amount of money in itself, especially for freshers deciding where best to invest their money during a manic first week, with many cheaper alternative on offer. Asking new students to commit £100 to a SAM card is likely to prevent newcomers from committing to a sport.

Those who have to renew their membership, who commit and lend their support to sport at UEA yearly, should be granted concessions if anything, not asked to dip into their pockets and bail the union out. Simon Beeson, speaking on behalf of the football team, concurs – ‘having played sport at university for the past three years, and having seen how important sport is to the student experience, I believe the union should be encouraging students to participate in sports societies, not simply squeezing the student pocket for extra funding’.

The football and the rugby teams will survive, demand and popularity ensure this. It is the smaller or more niche sports at the university which could really be harmed by membership increases. With the top three of UEA BUCS being Volleyball, Fencing and Korfball the university should be doing all it can to encourage the development of lesser known and played sports.

Fencing president Robert Johnson says that ‘whilst £50 still isn’t a lot to pay for a SAM card compared to costs outside of university  it’s still a large amount of money to pay up front. On top of that they’d also have to pay a membership fee to join a club which could easily mean spending more than £100 on sports on only the third day of term. Some of our top fencers started from scratch at UEA having never partaken in any other sport before university and they’re now some of not only our best fencers but have national rankings approaching the top 100 in the country. It’s these people SAM increases are most likely to deter.

Senior Lacrosse goalkeeper Robert Clark says ‘if the sport membership fee was increased it would see many emerging sports and teams at UEA, including men’s lacrosse, suffer.The gamble on whether or not a new player would enjoy the sport they choose has a far greater price tag. We’re in a transition year next season with the loss of seven of our starting lineup, so next year more than ever it is critical to get a good roster of new fresher players.’

We are lucky at UEA to have such a wide variety of sports to choose from, and there may never be another point in our lives where we can access them so cheaply. For Ellie Egan, it was Brazilian martial art capoeira which caught her eye at Freshers. Having never trained in martial arts before, she is now the club’s social secretary, and she is dismayed about the potential increase in SAM, saying ‘increasing sports membership would have a great effect on the lesser known clubs like capoeira as people will be reluctant to try something new if it means paying a huge amount for it.’

Derby Day was an unforgettable experienced for all involved this year, with Essex returning home humbled, their tails between their legs. It would be a shame if next year certain sports were unable to compete through lack of funds or members.

How could the Union combat loss of sports players? Comment below and let us know your opinion!