Extortionate Warwick Sport (EWS), a movement lobbying against the Warwick Sport price increase, has claimed that the new membership fees are not being justified properly.
The University claimed that the price increase for sports club members using Warwick Sport facilities is as a result of redistributing costs from non-club members who had heavily subsidised clubs.
Last year, £17 of standard membership fees went towards non-club member activities while £38 was used to fund club activities.
EWS met with Warwick Sport management and Students’ Union (SU) sabbatical officers last September to discuss the price increases. The Boar received a recording and transcript of this meeting.
“More” for non-club members
During the meeting, it was claimed that rather than lowering membership fees, there was to be “more provision” of services for non-club members in order to improve their sport offers.
SU democracy and development officer Rob Ankcorn explained: “From the feedback of members of Warwick Sport, more provision was essentially a better value for money.”
Leader of the EWS campaign, Mohammed Saghir, stated: “Warwick Sport have not said exactly where [the extra money] is going to go” when asked what was meant by “more provisions”.
Peter Dunn, head of press and policy at the University, responded: “the revised funding model will allow us to continue to expand opportunities for those outside of the club programme which will include our Active, Lifestyle and Performance Programme…”
Funding for Warwick Active, a sports initiative designed to increase participation rates from non-club members, was launched through a £100,000 grant by Sport England and will continue to be funded by the University.
It has also been ascertained that Warwick Sport is not planning to spend money on improving on-site facilities like the gym or the swimming pool at the present time.
Mr Saghir expressed particular dissatisfaction with the fact that several weeks after the price increases, Warwick Sport still have not made public how the extra money is going to be spent.
Warwick Sport have claimed that they are not raising prices to pay off debts or to accrue a surplus. However, EWS wants to know how the new pricing model will ensure that students get “value for money”.
Mr Saghir explained that the developments proposed by Warwick Sport are heavily focused on club members who represent 40 percent of Warwick Sport membership.
Meanwhile, the cost to implement developments for non-club members “are in no way reflecting the cost to non-club members”.
He added: “We’ve asked if they’ve got any evidence that this is what non-club members actually want and we’ve not had anything back from that. It seems that they’re trying to make up ideas or ways to justify the (real) increase for non-club members.
“They don’t know where they’re going to be using the money and I don’t see the point of collecting money for the sake of it.”
They were “rumours”
Communication with Warwick Sport members was another big issue brought up by EWS. Saghir was disappointed that consultation meetings were not widely publicised and were instead communicated directly to sports club executive members only.
Mr Dunn however claimed that the annual Warwick Sport Survey was filled in by both members and non-members of Warwick Sport. He said that there was significant demand from the community for casual and semi-competitive sports opportunities and more opportunities to engage in health programmes.
An EWS member said that knowledge of the price increases last year were “rumours!” University senior management similarly did not seem to know about the plans when asked about them in the middle of Term Three last year.
In spite of this, Mr Dunn commented on behalf of Warwick Sport: “We ran a number of consultations sessions over the past 12 months which have been directed at club executives, club members and Warwick Sport Members not involved in clubs… These sessions have been communicated through club emails, Warwick Sport emails, SU emails and through social media.”
Warwick Sport staff pay cuts
Despite inflationary charges expected to bring membership fees up to £101 in two years time, EWS claimed that members of Warwick Sport staff have complained about pay cuts.
Even so, new members of staff were allegedly being taken on at wages exceeding £37 thousand per annum.
Mr Dunn said: “Warwick Sport needed to make changes to team structures and facilities as well as changes to roles and responsibilities to ensure the Department was as efficient as possible.
“Some of [the new roles including a Sport Engagement Manager, Sport Engagement Officer and Sport Engagement Assistant] will be funded as a result of the Sport England funding that we have received and all of these roles are to deliver the increased provision and opportunities for our university community.”
“Greater transparency needed”
The EWS group has successfully lobbied Warwick Sport into releasing previously unpublished documents (such as the 2013 Feasibility Study) and claims that it intends to continue holding the organisation to account.
Saghir admitted that it would be difficult to reverse the price changes and outlined his commitment to continue lobbying Warwick Sport for greater transparency.