Sport investigation: allegations of unsatisfactory performance from Sport Executives and UEA Sport

Concrete has launched an investigation into the Sport Executives and price of sport at UEA following a series of Concrete Confessions posts. Various issues were raised by the Concrete Confessions, however the majority being the conduct of the executives, the price of SAMs, and the inequality in UEA Sport treatment from club to club.

The confessions, which are all anonymous and have no connection to the newspaper, highlighted the following about UEA Sport.

Posts have highlighted clubs struggling to survive due to depreciating kit conditions. A post about UEA Kayak reported UEA sport leaving the club with “boats with holes and not enough paddles.” Another post supported this, saying: “we are struggling to replace expensive (and key) equipment which was damaged, to the point of safety concerns, by UEA Sport’s incompetence.”

The expense that leaves many at UEA finding sport inaccessible is highlighted as well: “I paid over £80 to join a sports club that I thought would be fun and that the first massive expense would cover it but it doesn’t, so what a waste of money and total disappointment” and this is followed in another post about SAMs: “there is little to no flexibility with it and there should be alternate payment plans and understanding.” UEA Sport membership pricing was described as “flawed” and “unfair” with another post stating “we should be directing the anger to the real culprit in UEA Sport.”

There were also accusations that UEA Sport favours clubs who compete in British University & Colleges Sport (BUCS) or competitively: “they couldn’t pretend worse that they care at all about sports that don’t involve competition. They may say all clubs are treated equally, but anyone who has been even close to the committee of a club they’ve left behind will know.” This was reiterated by more posts, “there’s also a national tournament and since we’re not a bucs, we have to pay for that too: hotels and transport and tournament fees” and another stating “we have asked for extra funding for things BUCS clubs have included in their budgets and been denied – things which are important to all sport if you wish to partake safely.”

On the Sports Executives, the confessions spoke just as critically. 

In terms of the representation that Executives are designed to provide, various posts said this is not being fulfilled: “Sports execs are being talked about because we don’t feel represented. Fix it.” This was followed by an allegation that Executives “have their clubs own interests at hand”.

The manner of the Sport Executives was also questioned: “get off your high horses, and focus on your clubs, the clubs that have elected you” and “Execs aren’t seen as friendly, open & caring”. This continued: “It seems some Execs have joined this year merely for CV-bolstering, rather than be an advocate & champions for their clubs…the terminology & role, Exec, has gone to a few of their heads.” Attempts by Sports Executives to respond to posts was not well received: “do the sports execs not realise that their passive aggressive/know-it-all responses to people criticising uea sport/SAM make people feel less comfortable talking to them?”

Following the posts, Concrete reached out to both UEASport and the Sports Executives for a statement.

Responding to claims of poor accessibility to sport due to high costs, namely the compulsory cost of £55 for uea+sport membership formerly known as SAMs, a UEA spokesperson told Concrete: “As a university, we pride ourselves on being able to provide an inclusive and participation-based sports programme to all of our students. Our Active Campus initiatives provide a vast range of very affordable sports and activities, and in addition we believe that we provide sports club sessions at a cost that represents excellent value for money for all the benefits that being part of a sports club can bring…At the request of sports club members, we are currently working closely with uea(su) to provide further financial transparency, the results of which will be available shortly.”

In regards to complaints raised in the Concrete Confessions posts of non-BUCS sports having smaller budgets due to financial bias towards competition-based sports, they responded: “We have 57 sports clubs at UEA, and we’re proud to have such a wonderful array of different teams and communities. No two clubs are the same and their funding can vary depending on a huge number of factors, including the number of members, travel costs and equipment, for example. We take all of this into account every year, while still prioritising fair allocation of funding between clubs – and a club’s involvement with BUCS does not have any impact on its funding.”

UEA Sport did not address allegations of non-BUCS clubs experiencing dismissive attitudes from UEA Sport staff.

The Sports Executives released a joint statement to Concrete, reiterating that: “Execs are elected into their positions and are students volunteering their time to represent their clubs or specific areas. They provide a voice through the SU to represent the student body when an issue is brought to them.”

Following on from this, they denied the allegations made of  Executives voting against grants put forward by the clubs they themselves belong to, saying: “Execs deliberate on grants extensively in our exec meetings. We take into consideration [their] budget, the amount they’ve applied for, and other factors to give an informed vote. Ultimately, grants are approved by the presidents, we only make recommendations after a lot of discussion in an open forum.”

Again, they denied allegations put forward of bias toward certain sports in their jurisdictions: “Execs also have the professionalism to ensure that their representation is fair and objective. It is also compromising their own club, relationships and reputation if they looked to clearly elevate their own interests above those of others or show bias to others in the same way. There is no tangible benefit for their clubs or clubs of interest to be elevated in the exec forum as a result.”

After investigation, Concrete found that of the ten Execs, nine hold at least one committee position in a UEA sports club. Following this, two Execs hold multiple positions in their sport and one has three positions over two sports. These committee roles range from President to Secretary to Wellbeing and Fundraising Officer of their respective clubs. 

As certain members of a committee are in a position of power which could benefit their clubs, many are pointing to a breakdown in the system. The Executives deny that this affects their ability to complete their roles.

A public statement was also released by Lizzie Payne, Activities and Opportunities Officer, on the matter. She assured students that she was working on a “Cost of Sport Analysis” with UEA Sport, which would resolve “financial transparency around the cost of Club Sport for members and students alike”. She continued to say this was “an area that has needed improvement for some time.” She addressed criticism aimed at the Sports Execs stating it was the student’s “right to hold the Execs to account and provide challenge”, however, “posts that single out and publicly target any one of the Exec team for open criticism is unfair, uncalled for and unkind.”

Concrete’s inquiries revealed UEA Sports clubs Presidents held mixed opinions about the job that the Sports Execs were doing. Presidents of mainstream sports clubs, in general, found they had had little to no contact with their execs but equally found no issue with their conduct.

The President of Men’s Rugby told Concrete: “I’ve never had an issue. We’ve been dealing with Tom Poole or Mr. Colney Lane as the post refers to him, he’s been absolutely fine” and he continued, “although I’ve had a really good experience, I’ve never asked for grants or anything like that. I am a president of a bigger club, and I might not be seeing things as smaller clubs are.”

The same sentiments were echoed in a comment made by the President of Women’s Rugby: “I haven’t really raised any issues with our exec so can’t really say much,” before adding, “obviously would be nice to have better pitches and storage at the pavilion but I haven’t chatted to our exec about it.”

The Athletics President said: “when issues arise, we are offered very reasonable explanations as to why we can’t access certain aspects of funding. Saying that we are a BUCS-competing club so maybe that’s why we get treated better than others.”

The President of Ultimate Frisbee responded to Concrete’s request for comment: “There’s nothing in it, never had any problems with Tom, don’t even know what we’d have to complain about as a sport we’re very low maintenance,” he maintained, “he’s good at his job, he’s not part of some conspiracy by ueasport against the students, he’s just doing his job.”

As a result of Concrete’s inquiries, we have discovered a general feeling that Sport Executives are not being utilised by many clubs. This is due to the fact that clubs fail to see the benefit in contacting their Executive, as they do not have an issue which needs resolving.

Further investigation by Concrete uncovered instances of attitude issues among the Sport Executives that have left certain club Presidents feeling that they are not doing a satisfactory job. 

A Watersport President who requested not to be named, stated: “the sports execs I think do a good job but they definitely think they’re the bees knees when it comes to UEA sport.”

An indoor sport President who also requested not to be named, stated: “In terms of the exec, I’ve hardly interacted with them, to be honest…it seems like they just relay info from UEA sport rather than helping us out.”

Along with these allegations of inattentiveness and lack of proactivity, the Sport Executives were accused of failing to understand the smaller club and their specific needs which stand them out amongst other sports.

A sport which once again requested to be kept anonymous when Concrete approached them said: “Sometimes I’ll go directly to UEA sport staff over the execs as they’re not specialised in your area.” 

Investigations have revealed the presence of a worrying culture in UEA Sport. Allegations are being made surrounding unsavoury conduct and an insufficient structure for complaints to be made, heard, and acted upon. 

Investigations have now revealed a worrying culture in UEA Sport, culminating in unsavoury conduct being present through UEA Sport and an insufficient structure for complaints to be made, heard, and acted upon. Concrete confessions has seemingly become a safer place for people to vent their concerns. 

There are examples of allegations of this nature made in confessions about various clubs.

UEA Taekwondo received an allegation that in 2019 at one of their sessions, “one of the male black belt coaches whispered “ooo, kinky” which the post deemed, “a bit inappropriate, [and] made me feel super uncomfortable.”

The culture of the Triathlon society was also targeted in a post: “If you are not a medic/health sciences student who already has experience with Triathlon, they will not include you.” The post also alleges, “they just left me in the dark to find my own way home alone.”

Concrete’s findings about the conduct of the Sport Executives, UEA Sport staff, and the cost of sport at UEA have revealed significant issues within their system. With many students preferring anonymous confessions to voice their concerns, there also appears to be a problem with the SU and UEASport complaints procedure. UEASport have since asked committee members to fill out a “cost of sport” form in order to gauge a better idea for the cost of sport at the University. Perhaps this signals a change in the tide, however it is clear that student sport community believes there  remains much to be done.


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Oscar Ress and Freyja Elwood

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August 2022
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