Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6346

Thursday 8 May 2014

Vol cxliv No 29

pp. 509–524

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor John Rallison was presiding, with the Registrary’s Deputy, the Senior Proctor, the Junior Proctor, and nineteen other persons present.

The following Report was discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 17 March 2014, on the governance and management arrangements for sport within the University (Reporter, 6343, 2013–14, p. 452).

Professor J. K. M. Sanders (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs and Chair of the Review Committee):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as Chair of the Review Committee. Publication of the consultative report in December 20131 led to a lively Discussion and further written submissions, all of which have been published.2 The majority of the responses broadly welcomed the principles set out in the report but many of them also made constructive suggestions for improvement, which have been incorporated into the current version. I highlight in particular the following points:

We have clarified that the title of the Head of the Sports Service should be Director;

We have agreed that one member of the Sports Committee should be a Senior Treasurer;

We have made clear that there must be gender equality in student representation on the Sports Committee; and

We have made it clear that the Sports Committee will need to explore the diverse views expressed on the place of elite sport in Cambridge: is its status being downgraded in a way that is damaging to elite sport, or, conversely, might the elite image of Cambridge sport be damaging to the access and widening participation agenda?

The Review Committee saw its role as creating an over-arching governance framework, not a comprehensive description of the current or future sports ecosystem. We did not have the remit or expertise to resolve all the many matters that would flow from the governance changes that we propose. The fact that we did not mention the committees overseeing, for example, Wilberforce Road, Fenner’s, or the new Sports Centre, carries no implication that they need to change. Indeed we are confident that the new Sports Committee will find ways to engage with the sports clubs and to enfranchise those whose dedication and support in running them is so important to sport in Cambridge.

We are aware that some contributors today may suggest that some matters are so important that they need to be resolved before the recommendations of this Report are presented to Regent House for decision. Today’s Discussion is of course an opportunity for members across the whole University to express their opinions. The Council will receive all the remarks made at today’s Discussion, and will then decide on a way forward that maintains the necessary momentum for change while taking account of constructive suggestions.

Some contributors have expressed the view that incorporation of the Sports Service into the UAS (Unified Administrative Service) and replacement of the Syndicate by a Committee would diminish the status and importance of sport. That is absolutely not our intention. We recognize the valuable and dedicated service given by staff of the Department of Physical Education, and by successive chairs and members of the Syndicate over many decades. However, in recent years the University’s governance structures and its financial landscape have changed beyond recognition and in a way that has reduced the ability of the present arrangements to articulate the case for sport.

The Council believes – as it makes clear in its Report – that the proposed structure will strengthen the position of sport by giving it a direct line of accountability to the Council and the General Board and direct access to the annual Planning Round. Furthermore, within the UAS, the Sports Service will have an additional advocacy route that is currently absent. There is no guarantee of increased resources but there is a guarantee of a well-understood and articulated mechanism for bidding and for negotiation that is currently missing from the sports landscape in Cambridge.

On behalf of the Council, I therefore commend this Report to the Regent House.

Mr A. D. Lemons (Director of Physical Education and Hughes Hall), read by Ms D. Lowther:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to comment briefly on the Report of the Council, further to my comments on the Review Committee’s Consultative Report of December 2013. I am pleased to note that

‘the Council shares the Review Committee’s view that sports makes a valuable contribution to life in the Collegiate University by enhancing health and well-being, fostering a sense of community, creating opportunities to develop valuable skills and enabling levels of sporting excellence to be achieved’.

May I restate that I fully support the vast majority of the recommendations of the Review Committee and that the Council endorses the view that there

‘must be a governance structure in place to foster the development of a strategy to ensure that it is delivered and appropriately funded’.

My concerns are principally with the recommendation that the Department of Physical Education should be designated a University Sports Service, and renamed as such, and that the position of Director of Physical Education should be transposed to that of Director of Sports Service. It is my professional view that this will introduce severe restrictions on the development of sport within the University. It will not, in future, attract the most highly qualified candidates to apply for positions at Cambridge and this, in itself, will lead to a deterioration of the service provided. It is my view that this does not move the University forward and fails to grasp the opportunities that are now presented by the new facilities at the West Cambridge Sports Centre. It is quite clear that all the advantages listed from being part of the UAS (Unified Administrative Service) are currently available to current members of the Department. Indeed, almost every member of the Department is currently undertaking courses relevant to their professional development and this is not new to this Department. I would urge that consideration be given to the title of the Director, which should be the Director of Sport, a title common to the vast majority of universities in the UK, and that the Director should formally be a member of the University Sports Committee with voting rights and not simply providing a secretarial role.

In conclusion, I would like to add my thanks to both the Review Committee and the University Council for their contributions to this debate and to those many volunteers who support sport in one form or another in the University.

Ms D. Lowther (Chair of the Sports Syndicate, and Girton College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am the Chair of the Sports Syndicate but I am speaking only for myself this afternoon. There is no ‘official’ Syndicate position on the Governance Review and none is necessary because all members of the Syndicate have had the opportunity to make their own contributions to the Review and subsequent Discussions, including the opportunity to comment on the draft Report.

I spoke at the previous Discussion on this subject in support of the proposals which had emerged from the Review and my position has not changed since then. I understand that there are legitimate concerns about matters of detail which have not been fully addressed by the Review, and since no process is ever perfect in every detail, that is inevitable. It would be very unfortunate however if the implementation of the proposals of the Review body were to be delayed until every detail had been settled.

I know from my own experience as Chair how very difficult it has been for the Syndicate to fulfil its statutory obligations to sport, owing to the present governance arrangements, which have isolated the Syndicate and the Department of Physical Education from the central bodies of the University. The Sports Centre project was very badly served by these existing governance arrangements; the fact that Phase 1, the sports hall, is now open and thriving does not take away from the fact that this could, and should, have happened at least a decade earlier than it actually did. I attribute this unfortunate delay to the lack of ownership of the project by the central bodies and the officers serving them. The Sports Syndicate flew well below their radar, which might have been useful in some ways but was certainly not helpful when it came to harnessing resources for a major building project.

There are still another two Phases of the sports centre project in the planning process. The Department and the Syndicate as presently constituted are no better placed to deliver Phases 2 and 3 than they were Phase 1. The Sports Syndicate may sound very grand and powerful, but with an annual budget barely into six figures, most of which is committed to making modest grants to a large number of student sports clubs, it struggles to make any impression at a strategic level. It is clear from the Governance Review that sport has an important part to play in the delivery of the University’s strategic objectives, and to achieve that it is recommended that it be brought into the fold, and empowered to compete for attention and resources from within the UAS.

There is a view that this proposal is undermining of the status and independence of the Department. But having experienced the reality of the present governance arrangements for sport for nearly a decade, I cannot recommend the status quo. I believe that the proposals of the Review body need to be implemented as soon as possible, in order to maintain the momentum that has been generated by the opening of Phase 1 of the Sports Centre, and to ensure that the responsibility for Phases 2 and 3 of the project rests within a governance structure which has the authority it needs to promote it. I would therefore urge the Council to proceed without delay to implement the recommendations contained in the Report.

Dr J. R. F. Fairbrother (Sports Syndicate and Trinity College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, before beginning, I must just take up a point that Ms Deborah Lowther made about the timing of the West Cambridge Sports Centre. For me, it beggars belief that it could have been achieved a decade earlier except for the structure of the Syndicate. It has absolutely nothing to do with that, it has everything to do with the change of Vice-Chancellor, and I think to lay that at the door of the structural arrangements is quite wrong.

This is a deeply flawed Report. I was a co-signatory to a letter to the Vice-Chancellor on 4 April and a follow-up letter to Professor Sanders on 10 April, which I hope we may be permitted to place on the record by reading them out. As will be clear from those letters, we would have preferred to resolve our differences outside the ancient rituals of a Discussion but that has not proved possible. Professor Sanders’ comments, however, need to be seen in the light of those letters.

I would like to make two further points about the Report. First, the proposed Sports Committee will have some rather onerous duties. Not only will it, or its sub-committees that report to it, have to oversee the registration of some 75 sports clubs (which, as the Proctors know too well, is a demanding job, checking officers, accounts, and constitutions on a recurrent basis if it is to be done properly) and manage risks relating to sport, but also the duty to ‘secure’ and allocate resources to deliver a strategy. Exactly how it is supposed to ‘secure’ resources if requests to the University are turned down is unclear.

However the membership of this Sports Committee comprises volunteers (with the exception of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education), often representing other interests and having very full-time commitments elsewhere. They may, or may not, have any knowledge of, or enthusiasm for, University sport. They will be, in effect, a management committee, meeting occasionally to guide, encourage, and approve policies. They are unlikely to be doing much of the work. They will need to employ full-time paid sports people to do that for them. However, it is proposed that the obvious candidates, being the current staff of the Department of Physical Education, are to be swept up into something called the Sports Service, reporting to the Registrary (or, rather unsatisfactorily if you are about to recruit a new Director, someone else, as yet unidentified) as part of the Unified Administrative Service (UAS). There appears to be a complete disconnect between the proposed Sports Committee and the Sports Service staff, the Committee having no authority to direct, control, or to require services from the Sports Service staff other than requiring the Director to take minutes and circulate agendas etc. This is deeply unsatisfactory: surely the Director of Sport and his staff need to report both to the Committee and the Registrary. Perhaps the answer lies in segregating out those matters to which report should be made to each body, in order to avoid confusion. Is it to be supposed that the Director of Sport will have regular fortnightly meetings with the Registrary to discuss sport? I think not. But discussions about employment conditions, premises, working with other parts of the UAS, perhaps.

It is almost as if, in its enthusiasm for the collectivization ideology for putting all ‘non-academic activities’ into the UAS (as foreshadowed in the 2010 Review of the UAS), the Council has failed to recognize that the real world is not so neatly segmented without adverse consequences, nor is hierarchical management organization necessarily the best way of encouraging initiative and the introduction of new ideas. Following the vilification (without significant evidence) of the Sports Syndicate in the Sports Review, the Report has ignored those paragraphs in the Sports Syndicate Ordinances which address these issues. In the existing Ordinances, the Director is under the ‘general control’ of the Syndicate (please note, not reporting to the Chair of the Syndicate, as falsely implied by the Report), thus leaving open the possibility of the Director ‘reporting’ (inverted commas) to the Registrary, which is how I think Dr Fleet saw it when the present Director was first appointed). Further paragraphs in the existing Ordinance make it clear that future appointments to the office of Director and his staff shall be made by an Appointments Committee of which members of the Syndicate shall comprise at least 50%. No such safeguards are included in the current proposals.

The Review Committee and the Council have elected to adopt a muddled version of the Oxford arrangements, which probably work despite the structure because of the personalities involved. With the right personalities and some goodwill and support (sadly lacking in Cambridge in recent years), probably most structures will work, but in devising a new structure it needs to be robust, whatever the personalities, which are likely to change over time. Rather than adopt a poorly understood Oxford model, where the circumstances are significantly different, I am surprised that the example of the Careers Service Syndicate which seems to cope in an excellent fashion between the requirements of a Syndicate and the need to work closely with the UAS staff, was not discussed as a possibility. Actually, I’m not surprised, since the word on King’s Parade is that if sport falls to the UAS, the Careers Service will be next.

Turning now to my second point, the single most important factor in determining the contribution of sport to the University (other than money) is the appointment of a new Director of Sport to replace Mr Lemons, when he retires at the end of the next academic year. It is, therefore, with dismay, that I note that the Sports Review and now the Council have gone out of their way to diminish that role, making the recruitment of an outstanding candidate that much more difficult. Examples include:

1. Renaming the Department of Physical Education the ‘Sports Service’;

2. Placing the Sports Service within the UAS;

3. Making the Director ‘report’ to the Registrary (or worse, some unidentified person or office within the UAS, with reference to ‘line management’, without any indication of what ‘reporting’ or ‘line management’ might actually mean); and

4. Pointedly demoting the Director of Sport from membership of the Sports Syndicate, to being in attendance (where he or she will join the other sports staff whose attendance at Sports Syndicate meetings has been so helpful in recent years). Even in Oxford, the Director is a member of their Sports Committee. Quite apart from sending an adverse message (the more so since it is such a conspicuous change from existing arrangements), it seems foolish not to ensure that the Director is at least as committed to the aims of the Committee as anyone else by ensuring he or she has equal status to speak – in practice, he or she will be providing the majority of the input.

Now I quite understand that my views on this can easily be brushed aside (out-of-touch, things have moved on, stuck in the 1990’s etc.), but it is not quite so easy to brush aside the views of Jon Roycroft, Director of Sport at Oxford (and someone whom the Review Committee consulted). In a recent email response to Dr Lasenby about his views of the Cambridge proposals, he identified that a key difference between the Oxford and the proposed Cambridge model ‘was that the position of the Director has been seriously downgraded’. Just so.

I urge the Council not to proceed with this highly disruptive reorganization, and to adopt a more modest response, reforming the registration and regulation of sports clubs through the existing Syndicate, appointing a Pro-Vice-Chancellor as Chair of the Syndicate and addressing the ambiguities of the Director of Sports’ position in the context of drawing up a job specification for the appointment of a new Director. It would have the whole-hearted support of those passionate about sport in the University.

I would now like to read the letter to the Vice-Chancellor I mentioned at the beginning:

Letter (via email) dated 4 April 2014

Dear Vice-Chancellor

As Senior Members of the University who are very heavily involved in the day-to-day running of sport (see below), we would like to voice some of our concerns we have over the recent Sports Review, and the Report to the University by the Council published in the Reporter on 19th March which was approved by Council on March 19th 2014. We have already spoken to a number of Council members about these issues and would very much have liked to come and talk to you about our concerns, and suggest a possible way forward which might both achieve consensus, a better outcome for sport and avoid a Discussion, flysheets, ballots etc., with all the attendant delay and cost. However, we understand you will not return to Cambridge until just prior to the next meeting of Council, at which we assume matters will move to the next stage. This email is perhaps not the best forum in which to air those concerns while you are busy travelling, but the two matters which most concern us are:

1. The substitution of a ‘Sports Service’ under the UAS in place of the Department of Physical Education, which we think will be detrimental to the interests of Cambridge sport; and

2. The absence of crucial detail in the Review and in the Report to the University about the sub-committee structure, its membership, and about how the oversight of the registration of clubs (the main concern of the present Sports Syndicate) would actually work, given there is no provision for a change in the Ordinances relating to “Discipline” and the role of the Proctors. We quite understand that the Sports Review Committee has not really had time to address these issues properly (nor is it necessarily best qualified), but they do need to be sorted out before approval is sought from the Regent House.

We would like to suggest that the Council defer a Discussion and Grace on the recommendations in its Report for twelve months, and ask the Sports Syndicate (with revised membership within the current Ordinances) to act as a proto-Sports Committee until October 2015. This it can do without reference to the Regent House (assuming the Sports Syndicate agrees, which we are sure it would). You, as Vice-Chancellor, could arrange the appointment of the Pro-VC for Education-elect as chairman of the Syndicate in your place from October 2014, and we are confident the present Sports Syndicate would welcome his attendance at meetings beforehand. This would give him an invaluable insight as to how things work, what the problems are and whether the proposed new structure would work, and we think those involved with University sport would take a good deal of notice of the views of a disinterested Pro-VC, taking on the challenge of a new structure for sport, based on a year as chair of the present Syndicate. There are also a number of vacancies on, and retirements from, the Sports Syndicate, which would permit new persons to be appointed who fit both the existing and proposed criteria for membership (this would, incidentally, make staggered terms of office, not mentioned in the Report, easier to arrange). Otherwise there will be a huge dislocation and loss of knowledge if the Syndicate is suppressed and a completely new committee and sub-committees are formed, with no handover process.

In addition, such an arrangement would fit neatly with the retirement of the present Director of Physical Education, facilitating a smooth and friendly handover, and an opportunity for the University to consider carefully the job description of a new Director, which itself may give rise to further thinking about the proposed structure. It will also potentially save the University the additional cost of appointing a new Director while the present Director continues in office.

We hope very much you and the University Council will consider what would be essentially a trialling process in a complex area before proceeding to firm recommendations to the Regent House, and can assure you of our full support in making the process effective, as we have a common interest in securing the best possible outcome for sport in the University.

With Best Regards

Joan Lasenby (Chair, Wilberforce Rd Management Committee; Senior Member, Women’s Boat Club; Senior Treasurer, Women’s Blues Committee; President, CU Hare & Hounds; Trustee, CU Athletic Club; Senior Treasurer, Senior Ospreys)

Jeremy Fairbrother (Chair, Fenner’s Committee; Senior Treasurer, Real Tennis Club; Member and former Chair of the Sports Syndicate)

Paul Wingfield (Senior Treasurer, Junior Ospreys; Admissions Tutor, Trinity College)

Dr J. Lasenby (Department of Engineering and Trinity College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr Fairbrother has just read out my sporting associations and it is in that capacity that I am here today. I am also a Senior Lecturer at the Engineering Department and a Fellow of Trinity.

I am, as you’ve heard, a co-signatory to the letter to the Vice-Chancellor of 4 April 2014 and the subsequent letter to Professor Sanders of 10 April 2014, this is following what we believed to be a productive meeting. We, the signatories, feel it to be essential that the points made in this letter to the Chair of the Sports Review form part of Council’s deliberations: they will not do so unless they are read out here. So, my apologies up-front for the length of this contribution, as I am going to read it out.

The substantive contents of the letter are as follows:

Dear Jeremy

Our specific concerns are:

1. The UAS problem.

This is a problem partly because the role of the UAS isn’t very well understood across the University, and partly because the reasons for the transfer of the “Sports Department” to the UAS are not made clear. The arguments, such as they are, appear in the last paragraph on page 12 of the Sports Review report, and don’t really add up to much. Words like “strategic direction” and “general trend” feature prominently, but neither tangible advantages (more money?) nor possible drawbacks feature at all. We looked at the Report on the UAS dated July 20111 with which you will be more than familiar. There is fleeting reference to the Department of Physical Education in paragraph 109, but in the context of providing staff and student services. Part of our problem is that we see sport as having a rather wider role in the life and external reputation of the University, and possibly a future educational role. The Report on the UAS infers three reasons for the inclusion of peripheral (to the UAS) activities within the UAS:

(a) the advantages of co-location, both to aid communication and save money on accommodation costs (para. 78). This doesn’t apply to the Department of Physical Education, which needs to be located on the prime Sports Centre site;

(b) to provide staff with more paths for development (para. 22) and career opportunities (para. 77f). This is undoubtedly important, but doesn’t really apply to the Physical Education staff, who are predominantly sports-qualified; [and we have just heard that it does apply to the other staff in the Department anyway].

(c) that leaves us with the last paragraph (115) which states that it might be more rational if, in the long term, all non-academic activities came within the UAS. That, of course, is a “one-size fits all policy”: we think it would be more rational to adopt a “horses for courses” policy and examine the pros and cons in relation to specific areas. In the case of sport, our feeling is that inclusion in the UAS as a Sports Service would be very inward-looking and greatly devalue the importance of sport in the wider image of Cambridge, and the importance of outreach possibilities not to mention the importance of perception by outside bodies such as Sports England, and the national sporting bodies. We also feel that there is a lack of strategic vision in destroying the possibility of future academic engagement in sports-related activities. Absorption into the UAS and the devaluing of sport is likely to affect Cambridge’s ability to attract high quality staff and potentially highly qualified students.

We would like to hear more of the advantages, if there are any, of inclusion in the UAS. There is, incidentally, no problem that we can see in the Director formally reporting to the Registrary: this was always what was implicit since the present Director was first appointed, and the failure to formalise this is simply a reflection of past times, when the University was less obsessed with the whole paraphernalia of management organisation.

2. Turning to the specific problems we discussed:

a) Registration:

Paragraph 4d of the proposed Ordinance gives the new Committee the duty to “oversee” the registration of sports clubs. Quite apart from the uncertainty over what “oversee” means, this is quite ineffective in resolving the major reason for the question of governance being referred to the University by the Sports Syndicate, because it leaves the arrangements for Proctorial registration unchanged. What is needed is a careful revision of the Ordinances relating to the registration of clubs and societies, so that the authority for registration (and most importantly, de-registration if a club fails to comply with the regulations) for sport clubs (assuming they are recognised as such), can be delegated to the Sports Committee, so clubs don’t have to comply with two sets of registration, and so the Sports Committee has teeth to offer both sticks and carrots. There is extensive work also to be done in ensuring appropriate constitutions for clubs which are connected institutions, enjoying exempt charity status, for which the University is responsible to HEFCE for regulation. The details of all this need to be spelled out: there has been considerable difficulty with the Proctors making unreasonable demands (not supported by the Regulations) in recent years.

Furthermore, the Sports Review suggested that the “Clubs’ sub-committee should look after both registration and allocation of grants”. Quite apart from the fact that the Report doesn’t spell out who is to be on such an important committee (a sub-set of the main Committee, or outsiders nominated by the main committee), it is vital that students are closely involved in the allocation of grants: it is their money, or at least in part was, as the capitation fee from colleges came from amalgamated clubs, financed by the college fee. On the other hand, the last people you want involved in the registration process, and the whole issue of discipline, are Junior Members.

b) Fenner’s:

There is no detail about the constitution of the Fenner’s Committee. This was originally set up as a quite separate University Committee in 1976, when the University took over responsibility for Fenner’s, the Cambridge University Cricket and Athletics Club retaining the freehold. It was folded into the Sports Syndicate at a later date, with a membership embedded in the Sports Syndicate ordinance. It is a complicated situation and unsatisfactory to leave the matter wholly at the discretion of the proposed Sports Committee.

c) Membership of the Sports Committee:

The proposed membership criteria of the Sports Committee are heavily dominated by representation rather than knowledge or enthusiasm for sport. It is to be doubted whether it is this committee which will be capable, with meetings once a term, of itself producing any vision or strategy rather it is likely to function as an enabling committee, authorising (or not) proposals and ideas generated by sub-committees, whose membership is unclear, and by the Director. The Sports Review made some disobliging comments about the current membership of the Sports Syndicate (six are current or retired bursars). What it failed to recognise is that these are some of the few people prepared to give up their time to work with the University on sports matters, usually because they have a passion for or interest in sport, and it showed little or no appreciation of their dedication. You could check with the current Director, but our impression is that there may be real difficulties in persuading people to join the proposed Committee, especially if they have the “duty” to set a strategy, and to “secure” resources. These are volunteers (apart, perhaps from the Pro-VC for Education), and who wants to take on liabilities like that? It would be wise, by use of the proto-committee suggested [refer to Dr Fairbrother’s submission], and by making specific appointments to the current Sports Syndicate, to see if our fears are unfounded.

d) Timing

There is a great deal of knowledge about Fenner’s, Wilberforce Road and the West Cambridge Sports Centre, as well as the running of the Department of Physical Education which needs to be passed onto the new Director. A friendly and well-timed handover would therefore be of considerable advantage. We are concerned about the apparent rush to approve the Council’s recommendations, and the suggestion, in some quarters, that the new Director will be appointed while the current Director is still formally employed by the University ahead of the usual overlap period, with the consequent additional cost to the University. As the present Director retires in September 2015, there seems every reason to take a measured approach to restructuring the administrative arrangements for sport to ensure that there is both consensus and a structure that works.

e) The Details

Although we understand that the intention was to agree an over-arching strategy, and then let those with a better understanding of sport sort out the details, the Report to the University does go into a great deal of detail about the membership of the new Committee. In particular, Appendix G lists amendments which have been incorporated into the final report, including a reference to gender balance. Leaving aside that the point was not “gender balance” as such, but proper representation of both men’s and women’s sporting interests, the amendment which appears in the text (Appendix G) on page 2 of the Sports Review, did not, unfortunately, make it into Appendix F, which is the text which appears in the Council’s Report. We do not know if this was accidental or deliberate, but it is regrettable that it was claimed at the Council that substantive changes had been made, when this change had been excluded.

f) Reporting lines:

Despite the concern expressed about to whom the Director should report, the proposed structure would appear to offer the same dilemma as the existing structure, in that the Director will report to the Registrary, but the Sports Committee will have no authority at all where the Director is concerned, and their line manager will not be a member of the Sports Committee. This is a conundrum: at least the present Sports Syndicate Ordinances provides that the Director is “under the general control” of the Syndicate. Please note that this is the only reference to the reporting responsibilities of the Director: it is not true, as the Council’s Report suggests, that the Director has ever reported to the Chair of the Syndicate.

g) Secretary:

Since it is proposed that the new Director reports to the Registrary (and not to the Sports Committee), there would seem every reason for the Director to be a member of the Committee as well as its secretary, as is the case for the present Sports Syndicate. Since votes are rarely if ever taken at a Sports Syndicate meeting, the difference is more symbolic than real, but it does come across as deliberately demeaning to say that he shall “attend” meetings. It is important to make the Director’s job sound as important as possible, in order to secure the best candidate, and these little things can carry a subliminal message.

h) Finance:

It may well be that the proposed revised structure will result in more money for sport, but it would be nice to have some reassurance of that, and in particular for the replacement of the capitation fee from colleges, which has been taken to support the West Cambridge Sports Centre, leaving a black hole for the small grants to the many minority sports clubs. We were sorry to hear the word “bankrupt” used in connection with the Sports Syndicate, which has no debts and only makes commitments for grants with money it has available. It is something of a financial slur on both the Syndicate and its members, the worse for being entirely untrue. Meanwhile it would be desirable to make some estimate of the additional administrative costs which will be incurred in implementing the recommendations of the report: the Sports Department is unlikely to be able to service all the additional duties proposed (overseeing registration, managing other risks in addition to health and safety etc.) without employing additional staff. Governance and regulation is all very well, but it comes at a cost, and some realism is needed about the optimum use of the available finance.

Best regards

Joan Lasenby

Jeremy Fairbrother

Paul Wingfield

In summary, I would strongly urge Council not to pursue this downgrading of sport for ideological reasons, but instead to follow a path by which many of the current problems can be resolved. We need a strong, high-profile Director to further the excellent work of the current Director. Cambridge must strive to combine academic excellence with high level sporting achievement and do the best we can to encourage mass participation in sport.

Ms F. Osborn (University Council and President of the Cambridge University Students Union):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as the President of the Cambridge University Students Union and as a member of the University Council.

Sport is an extremely positive endeavour, enhancing study, teaching the importance of team building, and promoting general health and happiness, as I know many of you here are aware. As the University continues to rigorously pursue its academic mission, we must focus on enhancing the Cambridge student experience across the board, recognizing that sport is a central part of this experience.

The governance of sport must reflect its vital position within the Cambridge experience. This will be especially important as the University looks to further promote the excellent quality University Sports Centre, the result of many years of dedicated work both by the Sports Syndicate and the Department of Physical Education. It is for these reasons that I welcome these changes to the governance of sport.

Introducing the Sports Committee and a Sports Service will see sport becoming more joined-up with the rest of the University, with a direct link to the central bodies. This will connect sport to the bodies which decide on how to spend the University’s resources, such as the Planning and Resources Committee, and the Resource Management Committee, on both of which I am the student member.

I also particularly welcome the measures proposed to ensure that the Sports Committee will be gender balanced, as ensuring the prominence of women’s sport, and highlighting its rich history and importance within the University is key to the future success of sport at the University.

Finally, I would like to suggest that the University acts on the Review’s suggestion to assess the provisions for student societies at the University as these groups, too, will be crucial for enhancing the Cambridge experience for future generations of students.

Mr S. Summers (Sports Syndicate and St Catharine’s College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the University Finance Committee and I am their nominee on the Sports Syndicate.

I support the views of the Chair of the Sports Syndicate that early implementation steps should be taken to amend the governance structure of sport, not least to plan in such a way that a strong field of candidates is forthcoming in the replacement of the critical role of Director of Sports. However, I do urge the Council to ensure that a lot more detailed attention is paid to defining the future funding arrangements for University sports clubs. Importantly, involving students in the detailed allocation of funds to clubs. I have to say that the track record of the University in providing funding towards that in recent years has not been one that reassures me that this would take place without some focus.

I would also just like to say that it is disappointing, as somebody who has been on the Sports Syndicate for a number of years, to see some of the recent comments made about the financial management qualities exhibited by the Sports Syndicate. In my experience they have done an excellent job of managing extremely limited resources and they have, where necessary, also called the University to account on financial matters, such as most recently in the fate of the proceeds of the sale of the Fenner’s Building.

Dr R. E. McConnel (Sports Syndicate and St John’s College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have been a member of the Sports Syndicate for most of my time in Cambridge. I have also been the Senior Treasurer of the Rugby League Club since its founding in 1981 as well as being Senior Treasurer of the University Hockey Club for about twenty years until last season. I therefore feel that I have seen how the old established clubs operate, as well as how the generally smaller ‘minority’ sports clubs can struggle to survive. With this background I think I have a reasonable understanding of how University sport has worked in Cambridge over the last three or so decades. By far the biggest problem – it’s not organization – it’s funding, particularly travel costs for the clubs, and this is particularly a problem because of the physical location of Cambridge – off the beaten track you might say and many of our opponents are in faraway parts of the country. What is not needed is a wholesale reorganization of University sport as set out in the present report which only notes financial support as a casual item.

I therefore full-heartedly support the calls for a rejection of the present proposals. With money, and the right will, I have no doubt that Cambridge sport can be brought into the twenty-first century by the right sort of sensible but limited changes to the present organizational structure.

Ms K. T. A. Mahbubani (Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Pembroke College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Secretary to the Women’s Blues Committee and President of the Power-lifting Club.

The views presented here are combined views from the Ospreys and the Women’s Blues Committee (that is to say the executive committee and the captains who make up the body of the committee). These opinions were collated between the 23 January and 2 February and over 35 captains sent in their comments.

While CUSU have been here today talking from a student perspective, and have been part of the discussions regarding the review from the start, we, the student body that participate in sport at its various levels, stand here with the view that we are not being fairly represented, especially as our views and our opinions were not consulted.

The overall view is that changes to the governance of Sport at the University do need to happen, but what has been proposed does not suit the situation or problem at hand, with the main concern being that the new committee does not recognize nor represent those who work (and have worked) to make Cambridge sport what it is, nor those who are involved in University sport on a daily or weekly basis.

The lack of sports representation seems to be the most worrying point. There is not even a suggestion that the new senior members who make up the new committee need to have any interest in sport, let alone a vested interest in advancing its cause.

In terms of the student membership, there is no suggestion that they should be a sportsman or sportswoman, let alone be involved at a senior level in College or University sport, especially as one is to be nominated by the Education Committee and the other nominated by the clubs’ sub-committee. This is a significant concern. There need to be student representatives of each sex to put forward the views and issues in both men’s and women’s sports – representatives from the Women’s Blues Club, Men’s Blues Club, Ospreys, and Hawks would be appropriate. How gender equality can be presented by a single nominated representative we are uncertain.

The other major concern that has been highlighted is the demotion of the Physical Education Department to that of an administrative capacity. Combining this fact with this new Sports Committee reporting to academics, we find it very difficult to believe that ‘The provision of sports services should be primarily for students’, especially as it will be up to this new Sports Committee to determine funding allocated to the sports clubs, large and small.

There are many differences between elite University sport and recreational sport, which should be acknowledged and treated separately as such. While both aspects of sport are very valuable, they cannot be covered by blanket policies. In much the same way, policies for team sports cannot always be applied to individual sports or vice versa.

With only two student members, there is no possibility of capturing the range of sports participated in by students, and if a new body is to be created, the student membership must be expanded to reflect the range of sports available, for instance by ensuring that there are representatives from mass participation sports such as rugby and rowing, and also from less populous sports such as rugby fives or real tennis. If the University is really saying that the provision of sport is one of its ‘core values’ (as it states in the report on p. 4) and that the primary beneficiaries of such provisions should be students (as it states on p. 13), then surely they should be strongly represented on any decision-making body.

The review also raises an additional question put eloquently by the president of the Ospreys:

‘what is (and what will be?) the role of the Ospreys, the Hawks, the Women’s Blues Club, and the Men’s Blues Club in policy and support? All four groups should have been heavily consulted in drafting recommendations – and even if outreach to us was made and any lack of response was present, it should not have been ignored. Anything published that does not include our input should be considered incomplete.’

And I, like so many others, am inclined to agree with her. Cambridge is supposed to excel not only in academia but in all realms of student life, including elite level sport at the University.

Dr P. Wingfield (Faculty of Music and Trinity College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am another co-signatory to the letter to the Vice-Chancellor of 4 April and the follow-up letter to Professor Sanders of 10 April. I also fully endorse everything said today by Drs Fairbrother and Lasenby.

My interest in Cambridge sport primarily relates to two areas: as the Senior Treasurer of the Junior Ospreys I play a part in promoting women’s sport in general; through my connections with the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds and my activities as a track judge, I have direct involvement in athletics. Indeed, I shall be officiating at the 150th Varsity Athletics Match at the historic Iffley Road track in less than three weeks’ time, provided that my expected twin daughters do not put in an early appearance – it will be a tough call if I am forced to choose! A third hat relevant to what I have to say today is my day job as Admissions Tutor of Trinity.

I shall be brief. Many of the arguments about the Report’s inadequacies have already been made. What I would like to do is place the spotlight on a muddle at the heart of the Report that bothers me greatly in all three of my relevant roles. There is an underlying assumption that the so-called ‘Oxford model’ for administering and developing sport is superior to the current arrangements at Cambridge, not least because Oxford is supposedly achieving the greater sporting success. This latter implication was overtly expressed by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs in our recent discussion with him. It presumably arises from results in two high-profile male sports: rowing and rugby. Oxford has dominated the boat race since the turn of the twenty-first century and has won the last four Varsity rugby matches. There are numerous reasons for this, not least the provision for optional matriculation at one Oxford College. But even in this restricted sporting sphere, one might point out that Cambridge had a string of boat-race wins in the 1990’s and won four out of five of the Varsity rugby matches between 2005 and 2009; Cambridge are also narrowly ahead overall in both events. The longer-term contests are extremely competitive. What I would like to highlight, though, is performance over the whole range of sports contested by the two universities. So far this year, more than 70 varsity matches have taken place, and Cambridge is just in front (I think the tally is 39:34 at the moment). Last year, Cambridge prevailed overall by a small margin; the year before Oxford emerged ahead by a similar margin. Across Oxbridge sport as a whole, the scene is as close and keenly contested as one could possibly hope and has in fact been like this for many years.

There emerges, nonetheless, a clear difference between the two universities when one scrutinizes the breakdown of results, and this discrepancy in my view makes the Report’s endorsement of a variant of the ‘Oxford model’ very worrying. In recent years, the Oxford men and women have dominated in the traditional, independent-school sports of rowing and rugby, sports which are practised across only a restricted part of the world. Cambridge’s men and women on the other hand have been pre-eminent in football, athletics, and cross-country, which are not only global sports but are more access-friendly, as the school backgrounds of recent participants in the relevant Varsity matches attest, and are indeed genuinely egalitarian: one needs only a pair of trainers, some shorts and a vest to get started in athletics. The trend has become more pronounced as clear blue water has opened up between Cambridge’s percentage of state school admissions and that of Oxford. It is embarrassing to lose the boat race by eleven lengths given that this is televised, but were it the athletics and football matches that were on the television it might well be Oxford sport that was under review.

The point I would thus like to make is that the current Sports Syndicate, despite its alleged shortcomings, fosters an impressive level of excellence across a wide range of women’s and men’s sports that reflect the greater diversity of Cambridge’s student population. One does not have to spend very long talking to potential applicants to realize that the inclusiveness of the Cambridge sporting scene is a big attraction to excellent state-school sportsmen and sportswomen. Many of these are also top class academically: the most recent Cambridge student to win an international cross-country medal – a woman from Trinity, I am happy to say – graduated with a first-class degree and was from a comprehensive school that has very few Oxbridge entrants. By dismantling the Syndicate and imposing a more centralized structure modelled on that of Oxford, we run the very real risk of, to employ a topical metaphor, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Mr D. A. Weldon (Review Committee, and Co-ordinator, Cambridge University Students Union):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak as the Co-ordinator of the Cambridge University Students Union, the body representing all undergraduate and graduate students throughout the University. I speak also as a member of the Review Committee, and as it happens a keen swimmer.

Our University has an excellent sporting tradition, one of which we should be proud. Sport is an integral part of the Cambridge experience for the majority of the University’s students. From early morning rowing, to knocking around a football after a day’s work, it is clear that students, academics, and staff across the University complement their study and general wellbeing by engaging in physical exercise and sport.

I believe sport is a good thing for Cambridge, and I believe these proposals are a good thing for sport. For a very long time, our students have been ably supported by the exceptionally dedicated team of individuals who work at the Department of Physical Education, and who have both ensured students far and wide can participate in sport, and assisted our elite athletes in competing at the highest level, to a standard matching the University’s academic excellence.

As a sabbatical officer elected by the student body, I have been lucky to be a member of the Sports Syndicate for two years and to see first-hand the great work of these individuals and those at the Department of Physical Education. I believe their work and service to the University should be commended.

As officers at the Students Union, I and my team spend our days representing students in relation to numerous different multifaceted issues, in wide-ranging fora, throughout the University: on Councils, Committees, Syndicates, Boards, Discussions, workshops, working groups, advisory panels, and more besides. Through seeing the work of lots of different bodies all at once, we begin to see the many different ways that the University is governed, and how the University and the Colleges interact and complement one another. As we try to ensure students’ interests are furthered across the University, we gain a broader picture of how business is conducted across the University’s many different component parts. It is for this reason that I believe these changes are a positive step forward for sport at Cambridge, and timely, as we near the end of the first full academic year of operation at our new Sports Centre and look ahead to the future.

By transferring responsibility for sport to a full University Committee with direct reporting lines to the Council and the General Board, and incorporating the Sports Service into the Unified Administrative Service sport will become better connected to, and crucially, included within, the University’s whole rather than being separated and isolated from the ‘rest’ of the University. This can only be a good thing, assuring that a strong case continues to be made for sport in the future, particularly with regard to the University’s annual planning round.

Of course, the implementation of any new governance arrangement would require significant effort and fine-tuning with regards to the detail; in this case, with particular regard to the sub-committee structure of the new Sports Committee. For that reason, my team and I at the Students Union request that we assist as any new arrangements would be put in place so as to ensure that the interests of all parties and clubs can be balanced. Indeed, we have already consulted with student-run elite sports groups to discuss how we may ensure these measures are implemented.

Mr C. L. M. Pratt (Sports Syndicate, Review Committee and Jesus College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of both the Review Committee and the Sports Syndicate. For many years I was Senior Treasurer of the University Athletic Club, I am a Fellow and Bursar of Jesus College.

I should say at once that I agree and endorse and fully support the remarks both of the Chair of the Review Committee and those of the Chair of the Syndicate. That said, I have to say that I profoundly disagree with the views expressed by Dr Fairbrother, Dr Lasenby, and Mr Lemons, especially those relating to the Directorship and the incorporation within the UAS (Unified Administrative Service). I would urge those with whom I have disagreed – whose passion for sport I do not doubt – to direct their energies to helping to create the new governance structure proposed by the Report and to enable it to do the job we all believe in.

What is proposed is not a downgrading but an integration within the central processes of the University, which will bring real benefits and the potential to include not only more clubs – and that is very important – but also the senior and junior members of those clubs at the operational level, something which, alas, the Syndicate has failed to do.

Finally, I urge the Council – to whom we should be very grateful for raising the question of the status of sport and for its proposals to embed it more firmly within the University and its operations – to stick to its guns and to move forward to the great potential benefit of sport.