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Campus Facilities Can't Cope with Sport Interest Levels

Keeping sport on campus whilst managing an ever-growing uni population isn't proving an easy task.

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Image Credit: Luke Snell

Sport at the University of York is struggling to keep up with growing demand. Facilities on campus have barely expanded, despite the university’s population growing rapidly by nearly 3000 in the last five years. The current level stands at nearly 19,000.

This has inevitably increased the level of interest and participation in sport on campus. Maddi Cannell, YUSU Sport President, feels the situation has reached “crisis point”.

The University of York Badminton Club, to take an example, averages a turnout of around 120 people for their Monday sessions. It’s quite a task to facilitate space and time for this number of people to play. What clubs don’t want to do, is turn people away because of a lack of playing space. Something’s got to give.

College football on the JLD, YSV 3G pitch and 22 Acres has a current turnaround time of just three minutes between fixtures. These are positive problems to have… but they still need addressing. Derwent College has seven men’s football teams. That’s a
brilliant effort, but it requires a lot more effort to cater for this level of interest.

Places like 22 Acres are entirely weather-dependent for usage too, of course. To ensure the packed rugby calendar didn’t suffer in the recent rain, the groundsmen spent an entire day improving drainage on pitches on Wednesday (23rd).

Sports such as college rugby are an example of what the uni doesn’t want to have to move off campus (as they have done in the past), because this simply costs the clubs more money on transport. Also, this will reduce the number of spectators, which is consistently high, at matches – something which wasn’t evident when matches were played at the York RI Rugby Football Club.

Additional problems were unravelling because of the early times at which afternoon matches were being called off. Games starting at 14:00 had cancellation deadlines of 10:00 on 22 Acres. Improved communications between the Sport President and groundsmen had this successfully changed to 12:00, allowing for improvements in the weather, on the day.

If this limits postponements, then it will go down as a successful policy change. However, if sports team keep missing games or training sessions, they may decide to move off campus due to frustration alone.

A club that has no choice but to leave campus for sport is the Mountaineering (Climbing) Club. They take part in bouldering and climbing at two separate venues, both at least two-and-a-half miles away from campus. For members that don’t own a bike,
it not only costs the club in borrowing the facilities but also themselves, in their transport costs.

The University of Nottingham doesn’t have this problem; they built a state-of-the-art climbing wall for their students recently. It was a reactionary investment to Nottingham Trent’s 30ft climbing wall, erected as part of their City Sports Centre which
opened in 2013. Both universities identified climbing as a good way into sport for those looking to find that something new.

York Sport should identify opportunities like this, investing long-term into sport on campus. Short-term solutions of pushing certain clubs off campus takes money from students – money which doesn’t go back into campus sport. A long-term larger investment into greater quality, quantity and variety of facilities is a must. It could contribute to an improved reputation for York, as a leading university on sports facilities in the UK.

All these changes and prospective changes are ambitious, to say the least. But the most pressing of priorities has surely got to be in encouraging sport at the University of York, rather than turning it away?

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