Let me preface this by saying that I want as much as anyone for Imperial Athletes (IA) to succeed. And by that, I mean that IA needs to work for every single club, in its own unique way, so that everyone reaps the long-term benefits. Sport at Imperial has operated in a pretty weird way for as long as anyone can remember, with committee members bearing the brunt of the work managing teams, sessions and competition entries. Having the Union and Move Imperial as two separate entities dealing with club sport is confusing, and there isn’t a centralised athletics union that just ‘sorts it’ unlike other universities.
IA aims to solve this and be a one-stop shop for enabling sport to happen. The key word here is ‘enabling’ – IA should never be a barrier to entry for sport, or an obstacle preventing activities from happening. Ideally, a club should just be able to say, “We have 4 teams, train twice a week, have games every week – we need umpires, pitches and equipment”, and it will all be sorted by IA. Committee members won’t have to sacrifice their degrees to run their clubs, and the workload would be transferred to full-time staff members who would be running the operational side of sport.
This vision is set out in James Medler’s document submitted to Council in 2018, searchable with “Imperial College Union Sports Hub”, and has been ratified by clubs and students over the years. However, the launch not been smooth, to say the least – the rollout to Team Field and Team Court was delayed last year, and the rollout to all clubs this year has been fraught with issues. Part of this stems from poor communication between Move Imperial, the Union and students, something that is still a huge issue now. I have personally been frustrated when decisions have been made that have not been communicated to students in a timely manner, leading to everyone having a ton of questions and not knowing why their membership has suddenly been fixed at £25, for example. This is something that has been highlighted in meetings and is something that staff have acknowledged that needs improving.
The other main problem that has arisen is that while IA is great for sports that fit into the training-matches-competitions model, using Move Imperial facilities and having a predictable schedule, making it work for other clubs like Surf, Polo and Sailing, to name a few, requires detailed conversations between all parties involved. Many of these have frankly just not happened, leading to committees not knowing how to administer their cash flow, or knowing what to tell their casual members, or just knowing why IA should even be for them.
I appreciate that I haven’t gone into the details of why there should be a tiered system, or how £25 will fund the activities that clubs want to run, or anything about Imperial Leagues, and if anyone wants more clarity, they’re more than welcome to reach out. I want to make it clear that we know there are issues, and it hasn’t been good enough so far, but we are working to rectify it. I have seen the amount of work that Move Imperial and the Union have put into it, and with proper communication with everyone involved, it’s going to be a success.
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