I didn’t apply to York due to the sports facilities or sporting pedigree of the University. I’m going to make a sweeping judgement and say that, in fact, no-one did.
Whilst to a rugby playing gym monkey like myself the spring loaded weights room floor of Loughborough excited me in ways inanimate objects shouldn’t, ultimately the superior academic merits of York won through. Expectations from York’s sporting facilities then are low, wanting nothing more than somewhere for one to practice the sport they love.
That even this most basic requirement could soon be removed for numerous sports, as a direct result of the potential closure of ‘The Tent,’ is frankly outrageous. For all its faults – an inability to effectively regulate its temperature being the most often cited – ‘The Tent’ is essential. The University have had five years in which to build the promised replacement. Instead, years of deliberate neglect and chronic underfunding have been the only result.
In addition to our soon to be collapsed Tent, our athletics track is a mud-gravel-goose excrement composite not fit for purpose. Our sole Astroturf is showing its age and apepars to be permanently fully booked by U12 football teams. York’s sports facilities are treated as a cash-cow, with preference over prime bookings given to the highest bidder, rather than cash-strapped University clubs.
Compounding the sadness for me is that sporting development potential is there. Speaking from personal experience, the ground staff at 22 Acres regularly produce the best rugby surface we play on. That these pitches and facilities are even on campus is a huge positive, rather than having to endure the lengthy bus journeys as some London universities do. But, for a fraction of the investment outlay of Heslington East, we could have not just adequate but outstanding sports facilities. That tens of millions of pounds can be found to build plush accommodation, but a few thousand cannot be found to provide a transport vehicle desperately needed for clubs like rowing, kayaking, and a plethora of small clubs, simply for them to be able to travel to compete, is farcical.
What Heslington Hall seemingly fail to understand (and I use the collective term as I believe there should be a collective responsibility) is that sporting success and participation has a positive effect for both the University and the student experience. Anyone who has ever laced up their trainers knows the benefits that participation in sport can bring: better health, confidence and lasting friendships. Even if of no other benefit, it serves to add a touch more roundedness to a CV.
Furthermore, whilst I have no greater proof to hand than anecdotal evidence, sports players and active individuals also tend to perform better in their studies. With increased funding of sports the University could get students gaining higher marks, an increase in ‘student satisfaction’ levels and a higher post-university employment rate. Quite how the University chiefs haven’t realised that investing in sports facilities should be the keystone to our maintaining Top 10 status and potentially drive the University of York up the table is beyond me.
Sporting investment isn’t just about Roses success, it benefits the whole University. Please, Heslington Hall, start supporting sport: the first step is to save ‘The Tent.’